German and Spanish clubs have met in two of the last six UEFA Champions League finals - and 1983 European title-winners Hamburger SV will take on competition debutants CA Osasuna for a place in the group stage after today's third qualifying round draw produced several intriguing ties.
Hamburg may have the European pedigree as they aim to end a six-year group stage absence, but coach Thomas Doll warned: "This is a tough task. Osasuna are a strong side but last season we gained good experience against Spanish teams. We beat Valencia [CF in a 2005 UEFA Intertoto Cup final], this time we will try the same against Osasuna. I'm convinced the boys will do so." Newly-appointed Osasuna coach Cuco Ziganda said: "We all know what kind of team Hamburg have, and about their history, but I'm sure we'll put up a good fight." Hamburg stage the first leg with the return a fortnight later in Spain.
Two other ties are already decided before the second qualifying round ends next Wednesday - 2005 champions Liverpool FC playing Maccabi Haifa FC and SL Benfica taking on FK Austria Wien, as the Portuguese side did when they began their successful defence of the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1961/62. Benfica coach Fernando Santos said: "We have to deal seriously with Austria Wien as they are Austrian title-holders. Our staff we will be in Austria on Sunday to see their game and after that we'll have more details about the team." Benfica travel to Vienna for the first leg, and Austria coach Frenkie Schinkels revealed: "We had a list on which we put crosses next to who we would have liked to play at home first. Benfica was not among them. However, it is not a disadvantage."
Kuže rues Arsenal draw
Last season's runners-up Arsenal FC meet either Lithuania's FK Ekranas or NK Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia, with the second leg to be the first European tie at their new Ashburton Grove home. Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein said: "Ideally we would like to start a bit later on but we are in the qualifiers and we have to deal with it." Dinamo coach Josip Kuže, whose team lead Ekranas 4-1 with their home leg to follow, admitted: "
I am very unhappy, I hoped only to avoid Arsenal, only that, and we get Arsenal. In my opinion, they are the best competition team in the world. They have great individual talent in the perfect system. We need to have faith and hope to have a lot of luck and other circumstances on our side, then we can win with God's help."
AC Chievo Verona will make their tournament bow against PFC Levski Sofia or Georgia's FC Sioni Bolnisi, and coach Giuseppe Pillon said: "Honestly, we don't know our potential opponents very well. We managed to avoid several top European teams but we will not have to change our approach to the game for this reason." Levski won their home leg against Sioni 2-0 and sport director Nasko Sirakov warned: "One thing is sure. Levski can bite too."
Returning to this competition are two-time runners-up Valencia, but sporting director Amedeo Carboni, who played in the 2001 final defeat by FC Bayern München, is well aware either FC Zürich or FC Salzburg will prove difficult obstacles. “We can’t forget that Zürich are the Swiss champions and Salzburg have strengthened the team a lot plus they have the experience of Lothar Matthäus and Giovanni Trappatoni, thanks to a big sponsor who has invested in the club." Salzburg coach Trapattoni, whose team trail Zürich 2-1 but have their home leg to come, added: "I played Valencia with [AC] Fiorentina. In the third qualifying round there are only tough opponents." The UEFA Champions League third qualifying round ties will be played on 8/9 and 22/23 August.
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