Teams setting out in the qualifying stages of this season's UEFA club competitions will be hoping to progress as far as they can – and perhaps cause a surprise or two along the way.
At the draw for the first and second qualifying rounds of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, which took place at the House of European Football in Nyon on Monday, UEFA head of club competitions Michael Heselschwerdt reminded the clubs of a shining recent example.
"It is now 20 years since the UEFA Champions League first kicked off and during two decades of top-class football, the competition has become firmly established as the one that clubs, coaches, players and supporters most enjoy being in," Heselschwerdt said at the UEFA Champions League draw ceremony.
"Last season, five clubs made their first ever appearance in the group stage in this competition. Furthermore, last season, around half of the teams which were in the group stage had not been present during the previous season – so this offers incentives and inspiration to all the teams who kick off in the qualifying rounds.
"Everybody has a sporting chance to reach the competition proper – and let's not forget that, last season, APOEL FC of Cyprus went all the way from the qualifying rounds to the quarter-finals."
Heselschwerdt spoke of the success of the UEFA Europa League since it was launched. "Today marks the beginning of the fourth UEFA Europa League season," he said, "and it is magnificent that the new competition has become so firmly established in such a short space of time. The quality of the football has helped to make the UEFA Europa League attractive to the European public.
"None of the clubs present today have won the UEFA Europa League yet, which is now starting its fourth season with the aim of building on the wonderful successes of the previous three campaigns," he added. "But, if we go back through the history of the old UEFA Cup, clubs from many of the member associations represented here today have been champions in the past. So, it's not prohibited to dream about this season's final in Amsterdam."
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