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Ten keyed up for UEFA Champions League debuts

Published: Wednesday 6 July 2011, 13.33CET
The oldest club in Albania, some would-be giant killers from Wales and a team synonymous with TV sets in Hungary are among ten newcomers in the second qualifying round.

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Published: Wednesday 6 July 2011, 13.33CET

Ten keyed up for UEFA Champions League debuts

The oldest club in Albania, some would-be giant killers from Wales and a team synonymous with TV sets in Hungary are among ten newcomers in the second qualifying round.

Ten sides will kick off their first UEFA Champions League campaigns in the second qualifying round. UEFA.com takes a whistle-stop tour of Europe to meet the new arrivals in the world's top club competition.

Bangor City FC
The North Wales side took SSC Napoli to a replay in a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round tie back in 1962, while the Welsh champions' manager Nev Powell played in the side that went down 3-0 over two legs to Club Atlético de Madrid in the 1985/86 second round. Following Powell's appointment in May 2007, Bangor won three successive Welsh Cups from 2008, followed by a first league title since 1995 last year. They meet HJK Helsinki in their first UEFA Champions League qualifier, and Powell said: "We're gradually getting better every year but we've got to work on getting men behind the ball in training and make sure they don't cut us open. They've got the players like Jari Litmanen to do that."

FK Borac Banja Luka
Borac – literally 'fighter' – celebrated their 85th anniversary on 4 July, and will look for a belated birthday gift when they take on Maccabi Haifa FC in the second qualifying round. The 1988 Yugoslavian Cup winners are embarking on their fourth European campaign in the wake of their maiden Bosnian and Herzegovinian title, and received a morale boost when senior international Darko Maletić committed to another six months at the club. "The odds are on the Israeli side but I am hoping for a decent result to leave us with some chance in the second leg," said coach Zvjezdan Cvetković.

Breidablik
The pride of Kopavogur, just south of Reykjavik, Breidablik were founded in 1950, finally bursting into the top tier in 2005, claiming their first Icelandic Cup in 2009 and sealing their maiden championship the following season. Ólafur Kristjánsson's team supplied a large percentage of Iceland's squad at this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship, but they have made a shaky start to their title defence. "Maybe it'll work out and maybe it won't," said club president Einar Kristján Jónsson, looking ahead to meeting Norwegian titleholders Rosenborg BK. "I believe the boys will soon get their act together and show what they're made of."

FC Dacia Chisinau
Dacia's maiden title campaign last season ended FC Sheriff's ten-season monopoly on Moldova's top prize – not bad for a club only founded in 1999. Coached by Igor Dobrovolski, who won 1988 Olympic football gold with the Soviet Union, excitement is rife as Dacia prepare for their new adventure, not least in the case of long-serving midfielder Ghenadie Orbu. "Every footballer dreams about the Champions League," said Orbu, who turns 29 on Friday. "We want to get to the group stage of the tournament. We will have to be at our best. You must show quality, desire and a will to win. You cannot win without any of these attributes." First up are FC Zestafoni from Georgia.

FK Viktoria Plzeň
From the home of the world-famous Pilsner beer, Plzeň marked their centenary season with a first title in 2011, having returned to Europe after a 39-year absence by virtue of a second cup success the previous season. The side that seized the title so unexpectedly featured plenty of players deemed surplus to requirements at bigger Czech clubs, notably their 36-year-old captain Pavel Horváth, a former AC Sparta Praha and SK Slavia Praha midfielder. "Some of our players were not good enough for the top sides, but they proved their worth here," said Slovakian coach Pavel Vrba, who now takes his side up against Armenian club FC Pyunik.

KS Skënderbeu
Albania's oldest club, initially founded in 1909, the Korce team are now named in honour of national hero Gjergj 'Skënderbeu' Kastrioti and won their first title in 78 years last term. With the club facing a relegation/promotion play-off in 2010, new president Agim Zeqo promised: "I will save the team from relegation and we will win the national title." He was true to his word, and their second qualifying round tie against APOEL FC will be their first fixture in UEFA club competition.

FK Skendija 79
Based in Tetovo, Skendija's name means 'Spark' in Albanian, with the club long associated with the Albanian community in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Skendija reached the 2006 FYROM Cup final, but have raised their game since local businessmen Nuriman Shaqiri and Idriz Ibishi took charge, bringing in the club's one-time star striker Qatip Osmani as coach. They won the 2010/11 title in their first season since promotion, and are thrilled to be taking on FK Partizan in their European debut. "We wanted to be drawn against Partizan," said vice-president Ibishi. "Football is a strange game in which the favourites do not always win."

FC Tobol Kostanay
Having finished in the top three for seven of the eight previous seasons, Tobol finally got their first Kazakh title in 2010, though strangely it was a cue for coach Ravil Sabitov to dispense with most of his players. Following a shaky start to the 2011 campaign, the coach resigned in May, with fellow Russian Sergei Petrenko to lead the side from the banks of the Tobol river in northern Kazakhstan against ŠK Slovan Bratislava in the UEFA Champions League.

Videoton FC
Once home to the Hungarian crown jewels, Szekesfehervar now boasts the nation's top football club, with Videoton – named after a firm that once made most of the nation's television sets – claiming their maiden title under György Mezey last season. The club previously drew the world's gaze in 1985/86, eliminating Manchester United FC en route to a 3-1 aggregate defeat by Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Cup final. New coach Paulo Sousa boasts a mighty UEFA Champions League pedigree; the former Portugal midfielder won the competition with Juventus (1996) and Borussia Dortmund (1997), and fancies his chances against SK Sturm Graz. "I make it 50-50 for the two sides," he said.

FC Zestafoni
Founded in 2004, Zestafoni have finished in Georgia's top five in every season since 2007, as well as making regular forays into Europe in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League. The city of Zestafoni is a noted industrial centre, particularly for manganese production, and Giorgi Geguchadze's side hope to be on their mettle in the UEFA Champions League this year. "The club's owners have not asked us to reach the group stage, but that won't stop us from thinking about it," said the coach. "The will and desire are there, but the group stage of the Europa League is our minimum target."

Last updated: 12/07/11 15.42CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/newsid=1649079.html#ten+keyed+uefa+champions+league+debuts

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