UEFA Cup draw looks tough on Tottenham
European football’s UEFA Cup draw went as well as can be hoped for the British clubs left in the tournament – although fans of Manchester City, Portsmouth and Aston Villa will be betting their teams can progress through the competition’s group stage.
Tottenham Hotspur look to have the toughest overall group, although Portsmouth must face AC Milan and Aston Villa will have to play German league leaders Hamburg.
Villa have also been drawn in a group with Dutch side Ajax, although they will fancy their chances of progressing ahead of the Czech Republic’s Slavia Prague and MSK Zilina of Slovakia.
As a seeded team, Spurs could not draw Hamburger SV – the club where their former manager Martin Jol is now boss. Instead, Tottenham have got tricky matches against Spartak Moscow, probably the strongest team from the Russian capital, and Udinese, who are currently riding high in Italy’s Serie A.
Dinamo Zagreb – the club from where Spurs have just signed Luka Modric – are a potential banana skin, and the London club will want to beat Dutch team NEC Nijmegen to give themselves a chance of picking up points in other games to go through.
FA Cup winners Portsmouth will take on AC Milan in their biggest European match to date. Carlo Ancelotti’s team will be odds-on favourites to go through, but Pompey will fancy themselves to beat Heerenveen of the Netherlands, another Portuguese side in SC Braga and the German Bundesliga’s Vfl Wolfsburg.
Manchester City fans will be looking forward to games against Schalke 04 of Germany, France’s Paris Saint-Germain, Racing Santander and Steve McClaren’s FC Twente.
Groups B and C – which contain none of the English sides – look the toughest on paper and fans of the Premier League sides will be pleased to have avoided Benfica, Olympiacos and Galatasaray, who make up Group B with Hertha Berlin and Metalist Kharkiv, and Sevilla, Stuttgart, Sampdoria, Partizan Belgrade and Standard Liege – who knocked out Everton – in Group C.
None of those sides will be easy to beat – but City should have more than enough to get through their group. With the BBC reporting that City “face the stiffest test” of the four English football clubs, the Manchester club could be a good bet to progress in the UEFA Cup.