FC Schalke 04 will have to overcome Club Atlético de Madrid if they are to reach the group stage of the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League, while Arsenal FC must find a way past FC Twente in two mouthwatering ties from today's draw in Nyon.
Schalke reached the quarter-finals last season but have it all to do even to make the group stage this summer after being paired with Atlético as the Spanish side return to the competition for the first time since reaching the last eight in 1996/97. Finalists in 2006, Arsenal will tackle a Twente team making their debut in the competition, although the presence of the former England manager Steve McClaren on the Dutch club's bench adds extra spice.
Liverpool FC, the 2005 champions, will take on R. Standard de Liège three months after losing in the last four to Chelsea FC as they look to reach a third final in five seasons. FC Barcelona, also beaten in the semi-finals last term, will be confident of eliminating either Beitar Jerusalem FC or Wisla Kraków as the squad look to impress new coach Josep Guardiola. Three other former European champions also enter at this stage – FC Steaua Bucureşti drew Galatasaray AS, Olympique de Marseille face SK Brann or FK Ventspils and Juventus were paired with Tampere United or FC Artmedia Petržalka.
Two teams from smaller nations who recorded impressive first-leg results in the second qualifying round were potentially rewarded with winnable ties. Anorthosis Famagusta FC, 3-0 victors against SK Rapid Wien, drew Olympiacos FC from nearby Greece, while FC BATE Borisov will play PFC Levski Sofia if they complete the job against RSC Anderlecht after winning 2-1 in Belgium. An FC Spartak Moskva-FC Dynamo Kyiv reunion also looks likely as the Ukrainian giants won 2-1 at Drogheda United FC on Tuesday.
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 12/13 and 16/27 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 competitions. The final will be played in Rome on 27 May next year – 300 days away.
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