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Poznan prepares to swap EURO for Europa League

The Municipal Stadium Poznan was hosting UEFA EURO 2012 games barely a fortnight ago, but tonight it stages one of 37 UEFA Europa League first qualifying round first legs.

Italy and the Republic of Ireland played at the Municipal Stadium Poznan on 18 June
Italy and the Republic of Ireland played at the Municipal Stadium Poznan on 18 June ©Getty Images

A UEFA EURO 2012 venue last month, the Municipal Stadium Poznan is back in action for the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round tonight.

While the 2012/13 tournament officially started with Tuesday's two first legs, a further 35 ties commence on 5 July, with KKS Lech Poznań among the teams involved, welcoming FC Zhetysu Taldykorgan of Kazakhstan to a stadium which was being used for UEFA EURO 2012 as recently as 18 June, when eventual runners-up Italy won 2-0 against the Republic of Ireland.

"I came to see one EURO match in Poznan, Croatia against Italy," Lech striker Bartosz Ślusarski told UEFA.com. "It was a new experience for me but very interesting. It was a fantastic occasion to watch the EURO from the stands, and to see such great players as [Andrea] Pirlo. It was unique for me and all the fans in Poznan but now we must focus on our game in the Europa League. The atmosphere will be different, but I'm sure it will be good as always. It is our duty to beat this opponent. We are much stronger, but we must prove that on the field."

FC Twente, who reached last season's round of 16, also begin their attempts to reach next May's Amsterdam final this evening, when they welcome Andorran outfit UE Santa Coloma to Enschede.

In all, 217 teams will take part in the UEFA Europa League, including 43 who join in the second qualifying round and 32 who begin their campaigns in the various rounds of the UEFA Champions League.

Under a new format, six teams have been given access straight to the group stage alongside holders Club Atlético de Madrid as the domestic cup winners in the top ranked nations. They are SSC Napoli, Olympique Lyonnais, A. Académica de Coimbra and FC Rubin Kazan plus Tottenham Hotspur FC and Bayer 04 Leverkusen, taking over the places that would have been filled by UEFA Champions League-bound Chelsea FC and Borussia Dortmund.

Also in the group stage will be 31 play-off winners and ten sides beaten at that round of the UEFA Champions League. As usual, 24 teams will progress to the round of 32 in spring alongside the eight third-placed finishers in the UEFA Champions League.

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