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Clubs size up coveted group stage prize

Published: Saturday 18 August 2012, 19.32CET
The play-offs begin on Tuesday with the likes of Celtic FC, FC Dynamo Kyiv, Málaga CF and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach vying for the ten group stage places on offer.
Clubs size up coveted group stage prize
Málaga could compete in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Saturday 18 August 2012, 19.32CET

Clubs size up coveted group stage prize

The play-offs begin on Tuesday with the likes of Celtic FC, FC Dynamo Kyiv, Málaga CF and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach vying for the ten group stage places on offer.

The UEFA Champions League play-offs commence on Tuesday with the likes of Celtic FC, FC Dynamo Kyiv, Málaga CF and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach bidding to reach the group stage.

Runners-up in 1977 and semi-finalists a year later, Mönchengladbach are competiting in Europe's premier club competition for the first time since those heady days over three decades ago. They host Dynamo on Tuesday, 24 hours before fellow UEFA Champions League newcomers Málaga entertain Panathinaikos FC.

Celtic visit the birthplace of one of the most revered players in their history, Henrik Larsson, when they take on Helsingborgs IF. After missing out at this stage 12 months ago, Udinese Calcio will be eager to make amends when they face SC Braga, whose only previous group stage appearance was in 2010/11.

All five ties beginning on Tuesday will conclude on 29 August, while Wednesday's five first legs draw to a close the night before. The group stage draw, which includes holders Chelsea FC as one of 22 automatic entrants, takes place on 30 August in Monaco.

Tuesday
FC Spartak Moskva v Fenerbahçe SK

• In their only previous meetings with Turkish opposition, Spartak drew 0-0 away and then won 2-1 at home against Galatasaray AŞ in the 1993/94 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Spartak are looking to advance to an 11th group stage campaign, while Fenerbahçe are seeking their first involvement since 2008/09 and seventh in total.

VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach v FC Dynamo Kyiv
• The teams' sole previous encounter came in the semi-finals of the 1976/77 edition, when Mönchengladbach overcame a 1-0 loss in Kyiv – Volodymyr Onyschenko the scorer – thanks to a 2-0 victory. 
• Yuri Semin's Dynamo are bidding to reach the group stage for the 15th time overall and the first since 2009/10. 

FC København v LOSC Lille Métropole
• Last season's Danish Super League runners-up, FCK have lost three of their four previous home matches against Ligue 1 visitors.
• Third in Ligue 1 in 2011/12, Lille will hope to inflict further punishment on a home team with just one win in their last five European fixtures at Parken. 

FC Basel 1893 v CFR 1907 Cluj
• Basel are bidding to reach group stage for the third consecutive campaign and, in the process, build on their success of last season, when they reached the last 16 for the first time since 2002/03. 
• Basel went down 2-1 to CFR in their opening 2010/11 UEFA Champions League group stage fixture. The Swiss side bounced back to win the return at St. Jakob-Park 1-0.

Helsingborgs IF v Celtic FC
• Henrik Larsson hit 242 goals in 315 competitive appearances for Celtic during a career which featured two spells with Helsingborg – first from 1992-93 and then from 2006-09.
• European Cup winners in 1967, Celtic have contested six campaigns in the modern UEFA Champions League but they have never faced Swedish opposition before.

Wednesday
FC BATE Borisov v Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC

• BATE will enter the first leg eager to avoid another slow start to a home match given they needed late goals to rescue themselves in their two previous qualifying fixtures, both played at the Gorodskoi Stadion.
• Gil Landau's men are bidding to follow in the footsteps of Maccabi Haifa FC, Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC and become the fourth Israeli club to compete in the group stage.

AEL Limassol FCv RSC Anderlecht
• This is AEL's first meeting with Belgian opposition but Anderlecht have played three previous knockout ties against teams from Cyprus, winning them all.
• The Brussels club have competed in the competition eight times but since their last participation in 2006/07, they recorded four successive failures in qualifying between 2007 and 2010.

GNK Dinamo Zagreb v NK Maribor
• Dinamo have won all five previous two-legged contests with Slovenian rivals – including their past encounter with Maribor in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
• Maribor's only previous group stage appearance was in 1999/2000 and followed a 3-0 aggregate victory over Olympique Lyonnais.

SC Braga v Udinese Calcio
• Braga hold home advantage in the first leg but had mixed fortunes at their Estádio Municipal de Braga in last term's UEFA Europa League – winning two and losing two of five matches.
• The hosts can take heart from a 100% record against Italian opposition in two-legged ties – both in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup, where they knocked out AC Chievo Verona and Parma FC.

Málaga CF v Panathinaikos FC
• Málaga have faced Greek opposition only once before, beating AEK Athens FC 1-0 on aggregate in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup fourth round.
• Panathinaikos coach Jesualdo Ferreira was hired as Málaga boss in June 2010 but lasted just five months before being replaced by Manuel Pellegrini.

Last updated: 19/08/12

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