The road to the 2008 UEFA Champions League final in Moscow begins in earnest on Tuesday with 28 sides preparing for the opening first qualifying round games.
Less than two months after AC Milan were crowned champions of Europe with a 2-1 win against Liverpool FC the road to the 2007/08 season's UEFA Champions League final begins on Tuesday.
In all 28 sides are involved in the the first qualifying round, the initial step to the final in Moscow on 21 May, including for the first time the champions of Andorra, San Marino and Montenegro. FK Zeta will represent the latter, lining up against FBK Kaunas who are veterans of this stage as they prepare for their seventh first qualifying round fixture in eight seasons. Only twice have they failed to reach the second stage and though they have never progressed beyond that, Angel Cervenkov's team approach the tie in high spirits after claiming a maiden Lithuanian Super Cup triumph last month.
S.S. Murata of San Marino will play Finland's Tampere United while Andorran champions FC Rànger's travel to FC Sheriff for the right to meet Beşiktaş JK in the next round. Sheriff saw their UEFA Champions League hopes ended by FC Spartak Moskva 12 months ago but pushed the Russian team all the way before missing out on goal difference. They have been busy strengthening ahead of this campaign, striker Saša Kajkut and midfielder George Daniel Negrut both arriving in Tiraspol to raise hopes the Moldovan champions can go further this term.
Top sides await
They would have to beat Beşiktaş to do so with the 14 teams lying in wait in the second qualifying round once the first stage is complete on 24/25 July presenting a formidable force. European champions in 1991, FK Crvena Zvezda will meet either FK Pobeda or FC Levadia Tallinn while Rangers FC will face the victors of the Zeta tie. If Murata shock Tampere then their reward will be a meeting with a PFC Levski Sofia side which graced the group stage last term.