A total of 80 clubs will compete in Thursday's UEFA Cup first-round first legs, with the aggregate victors guaranteed a place in the group stage and an additional four games in the competition.
UEFA Cup holders PFC CSKA Moskva begin their defence at home to FC Midtjylland of Denmark. CSKA midfielder Rolan Gusev said he knew "nothing" about the opposition and added that his team-mates have only one ambition: "The UEFA Cup holders can have no other task than to defend their title."
The three UEFA Intertoto Cup winners are also in action. Olympique de Marseille and Hamburger SV, two of five former European champions involved, visit KFC Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen and receive FC København respectively. RC Lens welcome Groclin Grodzisk Wielkopolski.
Third time lucky
Another one-time king of Europe, Feyenoord start their quest for a third UEFA Cup title at home to AFC Rapid Bucuresti, while 1988 winners Bayer 04 Leverkusen and 2000 champions Galatasaray SK will be looking to double their continental trophy hauls when they begin against PFC CSKA Sofia (home) and Tromsø IL (away). Meanwhile, past UEFA Cup Winners' Cup winners Everton FC and 2004/05 UEFA Cup finalists Sporting Clube de Portugal travel to FC Dinamo Bucuresti and Halmstads BK.
The likes of Bolton Wanderers FC, UEFA Fair Play winners 1. FSV Mainz 05, FC Krylya Sovetov Samara, US Città di Palermo and Stade Rennais FC enter uncharted territory as they make their competition debuts, while UC Sampdoria and Xanthi FC seek first-ever UEFA Cup wins away to Vitória FC and Middlesbrough FC.
APOEL FC entertain Hertha BSC Berlin in Cyprus, with coach Marios Konstantinou echoing the hopes of many of the minnows involved. "Our target is to reach the group stage and we are now just one step from achieving this. I call on all our fans to come to the stadium and cheer us on."
FC Steaua Bucuresti, who are hosted by Norway's Vålerenga IF, and FK Crvena Zvevda are the two remaining erstwhile European champions taking part, with the Belgrade club's coach Walter Zenga confident of home success against SC Braga of Portugal. "The European scene asks the best of us, and we will give our best," he said. "I'm optimistic and our main aim is to reach the group stage. How we do it is a secondary issue."
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