Forty qualifiers were divided into eight groups of five at today's UEFA Cup group stage draw in Switzerland, with holders PFC CSKA Moskva placed in a testing pool alongside opposition from France, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania.
The Russian club, who lifted the trophy in Lisbon in May, were the only team of the 40 in the hat to have won this competition, but they will face a stern examination in Group F. CSKA must take on Olympique de Marseille, European champions in 1992/93, UEFA Cup runners-up in both 1998/99 and 2003/04, and UEFA Intertoto Cup winners this summer, in addition to SC Heerenveen, PFC Levski Sofia and FC Dinamo Bucuresti.
In a draw featuring clubs from 20 countries, Group E includes seasoned continental campaigners AS Roma - runners-up in this tournament 14 years ago - FC Basel 1893, 1990/91 European Champion Clubs' Cup winners FK Crvena Zvezda, RC Strasbourg and Tromsø IL. There are also familiar names in Group G, where VfB Stuttgart meet PAOK FC, FC Shakhtar Donetsk, Stade Rennais FC and AFC Rapid Bucuresti.
In Group D, Dutch Eredivisie leaders AZ Alkmaar - semi-finalists last term and losing finalists in 1980/81 - encounter Middlesbrough FC, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Grasshopper-Club and PFC Litex Lovech. AS Monaco FC are the top seeds in Group A, in which high-flying Bundesliga side Hamburger SV - who have considerable pedigree in continental competition having lifted the 1982/83 European Cup a year after reaching the UEFA Cup final - SK Slavia Praha, PFC CSKA Sofia and Viking FK, the only surviving Fair Play entrants, are the opposition.
No room for error
Group H looks to be particularly strong, with Turkey's Besiktas JK seeded first and Sevilla FC, Bolton Wanderers FC, FC Zenit St. Petersburg and Vitória SC, Portugal's sole representatives, also competing. In Group B, FC Lokomotiv Moskva have Spanish and Italian rivals in the shape of RCD Espanyol and US Città di Palermo, while Brøndby IF and Israel's Maccabi Petach-Tikva FC complete the section.
Finally, Group C pits Hertha BSC Berlin against RC Lens, UC Sampdoria, a third team from the Romanian capital Bucharest in 1985/86 European champions FC Steaua Bucuresti and Halmstads BK, who ended the challenge of last year's runners-up Sporting Clube de Portugal in the first round.
The draw was conducted by Jean Fournet-Fayard of the UEFA Club Competition Committee and UEFA's head of club competitions Michele Centenaro and saw the qualifiers split into five pools of eight sides based on their UEFA coefficient. A computer draw will determine the fixture schedule with factors such as stadium clashes and climatic conditions - it is not possible to play in some northern countries in mid-December - taken into account.
Two home, two away
Each club will play two matches at home and two away on the following dates: 20 October, 3 November, 24 November, 30 November/1 December, 14/15 December. The top three teams from each section advance to the last 32 where they are joined by the eight third-placed sides from the UEFA Champions League group stage. At this point, the traditional two-game format is used with the exception of the final, to be played at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven on 10 May 2006.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.