Brøndby IF and Valur Reykjavík are both realistic when considering their chances of UEFA Cup progress when they meet over two legs on 13 and 27 July – a common view among the 70 clubs who lined up for today's first qualifying round draw in Nyon, Switzerland. uefa.com gathers the reaction.
"I do not know a lot about Valur, but we have never had any problems with Icelandic teams," admitted Brøndby captain Per Nielsen to uefa.com, well aware that his team's strong showing in last season's Danish Superleague marks them out as clear favourites. "They are definitely a side we have to be able to beat - but then again, so are all the teams at this stage of the tournament." For their part, Valur know the task facing them. Willum Thor Thórsson, the Icelandic club's coach, said: "We probably got the best team possible but at least we can learn something from these games."
Three of the sides involved have qualified via the UEFA Fair Play draw and two of them, Gefle IF and SK Brann of Sweden and Norway respectively, encounter opposition from the United Kingdom in Llanelli FC from Wales and Glentoran FC from Northern Ireland. The other Fair Play beneficiaries were KSV Roeselare of Belgium and they find themselves up against FK Vardar of F.Y.R. Macedonia. "We have entered the UEFA Cup through the Fair Play competition after our debut year in the Belgian top flight, so our adventure continues," said Roeselare's sporting manager Luc Devroe. "We are glad to be involved, and we will try to make the best of it."
Many were left content if cautious. NK Varteks coach Zlatko Dalic said his team would fancy their chances of keeping the Croatian challenge alive against KF Tirana of Albania. "They are definitely the opponent we wanted. We don't want to underestimate them though. They have high ambitions, but our main task is to reach the next round." Likewise, in Bulgaria, Stefan Grozdanov, coach of PFC Lokomotiv Sofia, said his troops would have to be careful against FK Makedonija Skopje from F.Y.R. Macedonia. "The draw could have been better, but also could have been harder. Most of our players do not have European experience and that could be a problem."
More than happy
FK Sarajevo of Bosnia-Herzegovina have been regulars in recent European campaigns and will therefore be expected to dispose of Andorran challengers FC Rànger's. "I think the draw is fine, although there aren't any easy rivals these days," said coach Husref Musemić. "I think we have quality and we are favourites to reach the second round." FC Haka boss Olli Huttunen is banking on the fact many of the Finnish club's fans will be able to travel to in-form FC Levadia Tallinn in Estonia. "It's a short trip to Estonia and we will probably get good support in Tallinn as well as at home. They are one of the toughest opponents we could get and are doing well this season."
Skonto FC, of Latvia, have a longer trip as they head to Luxembourg and AS Jeunesse Esch. Paul Ashworth, Skonto's English coach, is relishing the prospect. "I am happy we got Jeunesse. I haven't had a chance to play in Luxembourg before and this will be an interesting experience." In contrast, knowledge will be power for FC MIKA against Swiss opponents BSC Young Boys according to the Armenian outfit's defender Hovhannes Tahmazyanyan. "Our fellow Armenians, Artur Petrosyan and Harutyun Vardanyan, used to play for that club. It's a very tough draw for us. We will try to do our best and maybe we'll get lucky." A sentiment shared by all 70 sides no doubt.
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