Last season's losing finalists Liverpool FC will have to overcome a stiff task by overcoming Toulouse FC if they are to reach the group stage of the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, while UEFA Cup holders Sevilla FC must find a way past AEK Athens FC in two mouthwatering ties from today's draw in Nyon.
Liverpool, the 2005 champions, will take on the French side less than three months after losing 2-1 to AC Milan in the Athens final as their bid to become European champions for a sixth time was ended. Both finalists had begun their campaigns in the third qualifying round, playing 19 games en route to the showpiece, and there are a host of clubs aiming to emulate them. Among them are three other former European champions entering at this stage - SL Benfica, AFC Ajax and Celtic FC.
Having failed to reach the group stage last year, four-time champions Ajax will be looking to find a way past either MŠK Žilina or SK Slavia Praha, while Benfica meet the winner of the tie between FC København and Beitar Jerusalem FC. Celtic, meanwhile, are aiming to build on their impressive showing last season when they reached the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the first time. Another side who impressed in last year's group stage, FC Spartak Moskva, stand in the Scottish champions' way and similarly thorny opponents await Sevilla as they embark on their first European Champion Clubs' Cup campaign in half a century.
Ties under way
In all, 46 teams were involved in today's proceedings with the 28 clubs 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 determine the draw, and for those clubs in the second qualifying round with an individual coefficient which entitled 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 14/15 and 28/29 August. The winners will all go through to the group stage which kicks off in September, where the 16 teams who have automatically qualified await. Friday's proceedings were conducted by David Taylor, UEFA's general secretary, and Giorgio Marchetti, director of professional football. The final will be played in Moscow on 21 May next year – 292 days away.
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