UEFA held the draw for the UEFA Cup group stage today and some fascinating pairings emerged. Both Martin Jol and Steve McClaren will take their new clubs back to England as FC Twente will face Manchester City and Jol’s Hamburg will take on Aston Villa.
This year’s groups are looking really tough and the field contains eight former UEFA Cup winners, and six former European Champion Clubs’ Cup/UEFA Champions League winners.
The top three teams in each group qualify for the knockout stages, to be joined by the eight third-placed teams in the Champions League groups. Here are the groupings with my picks to advance. A couple of potential upsets are on the cards. I think Ajax might not make the Round of 32 with their form being so inconsistent. They’ve been drawn in with some very good teams and it’s going to be tight to see who goes on.
Potential for upset exists in Groups B and E as well where Olympiakos and Portsmouth might struggle. Portsmouth have had a poor start to the season and are looking shaky at the back. Olympiacos are simply in a tough group and may struggle to beat out Hertha Berlin, Benfica and Galatasaray (a team featuring ex-Liverpool attackers Harry Kewell and Milan Baros).
I’ve picked Rosenborg to advance as they are nearing the end of their season and should be in good form/shape and as they are not likely to win their domestic league, they will look to these games to give their season some positivity.
Schalke 04 (Germany)
Paris St Germain (France)
Manchester City (England)
Racing Santander (Spain)
FC Twente (Netherlands)
Hertha Berlin (Germany)
Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine)
VfB Stuttgart (Germany)
Standard Liège (Belgium)
Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)
Spartak Moscow (Russia)
Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)
Tottenham Hotspur (England)
NEC Nijmegen (Netherlands)
AC Milan (Italy)
SC Braga (Portugal)
Aston Villa (England)
Slavia Prague (Czech Republic)
MSK Zilina (Slovakia)
FC Copenhagen (Denmark)
Club Brugge (Belgium)
St Etienne (France)
CSKA Moscow (Russia)
Deportivo La Coruna (Spain)
AS Nancy (France)
Lech Poznan (Poland)
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