Among the 18 entrants at this stage are four-times winners AFC Ajax, BV Borussia Dortmund, Olympique de Marseille and SL Benfica. Newcastle United FC, PFC Lokomotiv Moskva and RC Deportivo La Coruña are also involved, and no doubt keen for more success after reaching the second group stage last season. In 2003/04, the competition proper will go straight to a 16-team knockout phase following the conclusion of the 32-team group stage on 10 December.
Also involved in the third qualifying round draw - to be made at 12.00CET at the House of European Football - will be the 28 sides yet to play in the second qualifying round. Among those teams are Celtic FC, European Champion Clubs' Cup winners in 1967 and UEFA Cup finalists last season. The 14 winners of those ties will join the aforementioned 18 clubs in the third qualifying round, which will take begin on 12/13 August, with the return legs following a fortnight later.
First team at home
The draw itself will see a seeded and non-seeded ball taken from their respective pots and then shuffled in an empty bowl. The first team drawn from these two will be the home side for the first leg. The two winners of the second qualifying round ties involving Celtic and RSC Anderlecht are seeded because of the high individual club coefficient of the two teams in question.
Compatriots kept apart
Teams from the same country cannot play each other, and if drawn together, the club chosen second will be moved to the next match. If a clash occurs between the last two drawn, then the one taken second will be switched with the corresponding seeded or non-seeded team in Match 1
Clubs which successfully negotiate the third qualifying round will advance to the group stage, where eight more former winners lie in wait. Two of those, AC Milan and Juventus FC, contested last season's final at Old Trafford, with the men from Milan coming out on top in a penalty shoot-out after a goalless draw. The Arena Aufschalke in Gelsenkirchen has the honour of staging the 2003/04 final on 26 May.
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