Champions League - Liverpool must travel to Israel

Liverpool must play Israeli team Maccabi Haifa in the 3rd qualifying round of the Champions League, club football's biggest competition, the tournament that they won in 2005 for the 5th time. Last seaon's losing finalists Arsenal will take on either Lithuanian side Ekranas or Croatians Dynamo Zagreb. English Champions Chelsea qualify automatically and so do Manchester United. Edinburgh team Hearts, who finished second last season in the Scottish Premier will play Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia and the winner will play AEK Athens. Little Cork City of Ireland must play Red Star Belgrade, the winners of that game having to play mighty AC Milan.

Of the 8 highest ranking teams in this season's Champion's League, 3 of them are English teams, 3 of them are Spanish teams, 1 is an Italian team, 1 is a French team and there are no German teams in the top seeds.

Meanwhile, in the 2nd qualifying round of the UEFA Cup, Newcastle United will play Lithuanian team Ventspils, Welsh team Llanelli will play Danish side Odense and an all-British Isles game will take place between Gretna (losing finalists in last season's Scottish Cup against Hearts) and Irish team Derry City. Irish team Drogheda will play a team called IK Start.

Meanwhile, Israel national team and Israeli club teams, who all play in European competitions, are on the brink of being banned from playing club and international matches at home because of the worsening security situation in the Middle East.


Liverpool face 'unacceptable' Israel trip
By Chei Amlani, Telegraph online, and PA

Liverpool face Israeli team Maccabi Haifa and Arsenal will take on Lithuanian side Ekranas or Croatians Dynamo Zagreb in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.

Bumpy ride: Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez will prepare for a difficult tie

The English clubs have avoided potentially difficult ties against Fenerbahce, Spartak Moscow or Red Star Belgrade as they look to qualify for the group stages of the competition.

But Liverpool's away leg could be moved due to the situation in Lebanon and manager Rafael Benitez has said that he is unhappy with the thought of travelling to Israel for the game.

"It's a crazy situation and totally unacceptable to even think about us going over there at this time," Benitez said.

"A few years back, when I was with Valencia, we were drawn to play Maccabi Haifa in a Uefa Cup tie and the match was switched to Cyprus. The situation then was nowhere near as bad as it is now.

"Valencia also had a European game in the Ukraine on the day the Twin Towers were attacked in America and I can remember the confusion that caused with the players on their mobile phones constantly to their families who were wondering when we'd be getting back. It's impossible to prepare for a game in these circumstances."

"There is no way we should be going to Israel to play a game of football at this time. It's crazy to even consider it. Uefa cannot put anyone at risk."

Israel are on the brink of being banned from playing club and international matches at home because of the worsening security situation in the Middle East.

However, Maccabi Haifa will be keen to play at home and are likely to insist that there are no safety issues in Tel Aviv.

Uefa official Rob Faulkner said: "We've asked the Israel FA and relevant authorities to give us assurances concerning safety. We all see the news and have serious concerns - and the situation is changing daily. We'll be in discussions with both clubs but the key is the safety of players, fans and officials - and we wouldn't go ahead if we didn't have those assurances."

Arsenal are most likely to meet Zagreb, who lead their second qualifying round tie 4-1 after the first leg.

Vice-chairman David Dein said: "The boys who played in the later stages of the World Cup may not be ready for the game - that's up to Arsene. Ideally we'd like this game a bit later on but we have to deal with it."

Hearts, currently 3-0 up after the first leg of their second round qualifying game against Siroki Brijeg, have been handed a difficult tie against AEK Athens.

Athens beat Hibs in the Uefa Cup in 2001, while they also knocked Rangers out in the first qualifying round back in 1994.

Cork City, however, have potentially the most glamourous tie, against AC Milan - who are still waiting on final clearance to play in the tournament after their involvement in the match-fixing trials in Italy.

The first legs will be played on Aug 8 / 9 with the return two weeks later.

Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round fixtures

Sherrif Tiraspol (Moldova) or Spartak Moscow (Russia) v Slovan Liberic (Czech Republic)

Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) v Hafnarfjordur (Iceland) or Legia Warsaw (Poland)

FC Zurich (Switzerland) or Salzburg (Austria) v Valencia (Spain)

Levski Sofia (Bulgaria) or Sioni Bolnisi (Georgia) v Chievo Verona (Italy)

Hearts (Scotland) or Siroki Brijeg (Bosnia) v AEK Athens (Greece)

CSKA Moscow (Russia) v Djurgarden (Sweden) or Ruzomberok (Slovakia)

AC Milan (Italy) v Cork City (Ireland) or Red Star Belgrade (Serbia)

Galatasaray (Turkey) v Mlada Boleslav (Czech Republic) or Valerenga (Norway)

Standard Liege (Belgium) v NK Gorica (Slovenia) or Steua Bucharest (Romania)

Austria Vienna (Austria) v Benfica (Portugal)

Ekranes (Lithuania) or Dynamo Zagreb (Croatia) v Arsenal

FC Copenhagen (Denmark) or MyPa 47 (Finland) v Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands)

Hamburg SV (Germany) v Osasuna (Spain)

Metalurgs Liepaja (Latvia) or Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) v Fenerbahce (Turkey) or B36 Torshavn (Faroe Islands)

Liverpool v Maccabi Haifa (Israel)

Lille (France) v Debrecen (Hungary) or Rabotnicki Skopje (Macedonia)

Newcastle have been paired with Ventspils in the Uefa Cup second qualifying round.

The first leg will be in Latvia on Aug 10, with the return taking place at St James' Park on Aug 24.

Scottish Cup finalists Gretna will face Irish side Derry, while Welsh Premier League team Llanelli face Denmark's Odense.

UEFA Cup Second Qualifying Round fixtures
Southern - Mediterranean

Apoel Nicosia v Trabzonspor
Hapoel Tel-Aviv v Domzale
CSKA Sofia v Hajduk Kula
Roeselare v Ethnikos Achnas
OFK Belgrade v Auxerre
Dinamo Bucuresti v Beitar Jerusalem
Partizan Belgrade v Maribor PL
FK Sarajevo v Rapid Bucuresti
Bnei Yehuda v Lokomotiv Sofia
Omonia Nicosia v Litex Lovech
SK Tirana v Kayserispor

Central - East

Artmedia Bratislava v Dinamo Minsk
SV Ried v FC Sion Videoton FC Fehervar
Grasshoppers v Karvan Evlakh v Slavia Prague
Chornomorets v Wisla Plock
Basle v FC Vaduz CSF Zimbru
Metallurg Zaporizhzhya SV Mattersburg v Wisla Krakow
Hertha Berlin v Ameri Tbilisi
Rubin Kazan v BATE
Marseille v Young Boys


IK Start v Drogheda Utd
Odense BK v Llanelli
FBK Kaunas v Randers FC
FC Twente v Levadia Tallinn
FK Ventspils v Newcastle
SK Brann v Atvidabergs FF
Molde v Skonto Riga
Flora Tallinn v Brondby
FK Suduva v Club Brugge
Gretna v Derry City

Ties to be played:

First leg Aug 10
Second leg Aug 24
************************************************** *************

Top pot of seeds for Champions League according to current UEFA co-efficient:

1 Barcelona [[Holders]] (Spain) 127.0pts
2 Real Madrid (Spain) 120.0
3 Inter Milan (Italy) 112.0+
4 Liverpool (England) 105.9*
5 Arsenal (England) 101.9*
6 Man Utd (England) 100.9
7 Valencia (Spain) 95.0*
8 Lyon (France) 89.7

Second seeds:

9 Porto (Portugal) 87.5
10 PSV Eindhoven (Holland) 81.6
11 Bayern Munich (Germany) 80.9
12 Chelsea (England) 79.9
13 Roma (Italy) 76.0+
14 Ajax (Holland) 60.6*
15 Celtic (Scotland) 60.0
16 Lille (France) 54.7


40 Hearts (Scotland) 20.0
64 Cork City (Irish Republic) 1.4
68 Linfield (Northern Ireland) 0.77
69 The New Saints FC (Wales) 0.77

(* denotes needs to qualify, + denotes may change if Juventus and AC Milan win appeals in Italy against match-fixing punishment).
As the most ardent Liverpool supporter here, I must say this sucks.

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