Liverpool FC will have to overcome Maccabi Haifa FC if they are to reach the group stage of the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League.
Liverpool, the 2005 champions, will take on the Israeli side in one of three confirmed third qualifying round ties. SL Benfica face FK Austria Wien, with the clubs having met once before in the European Champion Clubs' Cup - a 6-2 aggregate win for the Portuguese side that began their successful defence of the title in 1961/62. The other confirmed tie is CA Osasuna of Spain against Hamburger SV of Germany.
Haifa wait over
Haifa were set to play Liverpool at this stage five years ago when their victory against FC Haka was reversed as they had fielded an ineligible player against the Finnish team. Haifa coach Roni Levy said: "
Drawing Liverpool means coming full circle for us. I have had a personal encounter against Rafael Benítez as when Haifa played against his former club Valencia [CF] we held them 0-0 at the Mestalla but lost the return at a neutral venue. Obviously the odds are not on our side, but sometimes it's good to catch big opponents at the beginning of the season." The first leg is at Anfield with the return currently scheduled to be played at Israel's national Ramat Gan stadium near Tel-Aviv.
Ties under way
In all, 46 teams were involved in today's proceedings with the 28 teams still competing in the second qualifying round, to be concluded next Wednesday, joined by the 18 clubs entering at this stage. Seedings were used to detemine the draw, and for those clubs in the second qualifying round with an individual coefficient which entitles them to be seeded in the third qualifying round, the potential winner of the match involving that club was automatically seeded.
After next week's action is concluded, the 16 third qualifying round ties will be played over two legs on 8/9 and 22/23 August. The winners will all go through to September's group stage, where they will join the 16 teams who have automatically qualified. Friday's proceedings were conducted by Jean Fournet-Fayard, member of the UEFA club competitions committee, and Giorgio Marchetti, director of professional football. The final will be played in Athens on 23 May next year.
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