Sevilla FC will begin their bid for a third UEFA Cup victory in four years against FC Salzburg after the first round draw was made in Monaco with tough ties for Italian trio AC Milan, SSC Napoli and Udinese Calcio.
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Eighty sides in all are aiming to win places in the group stage and Sevilla return to the competition having been involved last term in the UEFA Champions League – in which UEFA Cup holders FC Zenit St. Petersburg now compete. AC Milan will attempt to claim the one major international club trophy which has eluded them and have been drawn against FC Zürich, with the ties to be played on 18 September and 2 October.
SSC Napoli, who lifted this trophy in 1989 but have been absent from European action for 14 years before their success in this season's UEFA Intertoto Cup, have been given a difficult tie against SL Benfica. Indeed, the draw was fairly unkind to Italian teams, with Udinese Calcio being paired with former European champions in the shape of BV Borussia Dortmund.
Three other ex continental kings were in the hat – Aston Villa FC encounter PFC Litex Lovech, AFC Ajax play FK Borac and Hamburger SV meet AFC Unirea Urziceni, the Romanian side's first full UEFA outing. Elsewhere in the draw, Tottenham Hotspur FC take on Wisla Kraków – one of the 16 clubs coming over from the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round – Feyenoord face Kalmar FF, Galatasaray AŞ play Swiss debutants AC Bellinzona, FC Schalke 04 tackle APOEL FC, Valencia CF meet CS Marítimo and PFC CSKA Moskva encounter NK Slaven Koprivnica.
Road to final
Five days after the second legs the draw will be held for the group stage, the fixture dates for which are: 23 October, 6 November, 27 November, 3/4 December and 17/18 December. The top three sides from each of the eight groups will be joined by the eight third-placed teams in the UEFA Champions League for the Round of 32 in February, with the eventual aim being a place in the final at Istanbul's Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium on 20 May.