Four former European champions are among the clubs bidding to reach the UEFA Cup group stage as the first round begins this week.
Forty ties in all will be played, with 38 of the first legs on Thursday, including games involving two of the only three teams to have won all the major European trophies – FC Bayern München and AFC Ajax. Bayern, last in the UEFA Cup in 1996/97 as holders, welcome Portugal's CF Os Belenenses, whose most recent continental victory was against Bayer 04 Leverkusen 19 years ago. Ajax, among the 16 losing sides in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, travel to another evictee, NK Dinamo Zagreb.
Of the other former European Champion Clubs' Cup winners, FK Crvena Zvezda are at Poland's Groclin Grodzisk Wielkopolski, and Hamburger SV – one of the nine survivors from the UEFA Intertoto Cup – launch the first round on Tuesday at PFC Litex Lovech of Bulgaria. Wednesday's game matches RC Lens and FC København.
Along with Bayern and Ajax, four other teams to have lifted the UEFA Cup play on Thursday. Inaugural winners Tottenham Hotspur FC begin their bid for a third triumph at home to Anorthosis Famagusta FC of Cyprus; the 2000/01 victors Galatasaray SK aim to replicate their fine domestic form at Switzerland's FC Sion; RSC Anderlecht entertain SK Rapid Wien; and Leverkusen will hope for no repeat of their Belenenses reverse when they face another Portuguese outfit, UD Leiria.
ACF Fiorentina end their six-year European exile at FC Groningen while Serie A rivals Empoli FC make their continental debut against FC Zürich. Also playing a first tie in Europe are Getafe FC, at home to FC Twente. The second legs are in a fortnight, with the group stage draw on 9 October.
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