Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 20 News List

AC Milan faces Portsmouth after UEFA Cup draw



AC Milan will face English FA Cup champion Portsmouth in the next phase of the UEFA Cup, and Tottenham was drawn into a tough group with Italian co-leader Udinese.

Seven-time European Cup champion Milan has never won the UEFA Cup, and Portsmouth is playing in continental soccer for the first time.

“It is a good group all the way round,” Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie said. “But we will enjoy it and I am sure our fans will pinch themselves thinking Portsmouth Football Club are going to play AC Milan in European competition.”

SC Heerenveen, Braga and Wolfsburg are also in Group E, which kicks off on Oct. 23.

Three teams from each group will advance to the knockout stages.

Tottenham has had its worst start in English soccer since 1912 under coach Juande Ramos, who led Sevilla to back-to-back UEFA Cup titles before he moved to White Hart Lane. Besides Udinese, the last-place team in the Premier League will face Spartak Moscow, Dinamo Zagreb and NEC Nijmegen in Group D.

Sevilla is also in a tough group with Stuttgart, Sampdoria, Partizan Belgrade and Standard Liege, which ousted Everton in the previous round.

Group A has Schalke, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Racing Santander and FC Twente, one of five Dutch teams still in the competition. That means former England coach Steve McClaren, who led Middlesbrough to the UEFA Cup final in 2006, meets another English club, Man City.

Twente lost to Arsenal in a Champions League qualifying game.

“With the amount of signings that Manchester City have made and the progress they have made as a football club they are now massive and expected to do very will this season with the likes of Robinho and Jo,” McClaren said. “It’s a fantastic draw for the football club, for the fans, for the players. FC Twente have not been in Europe that often and already we’ve played Arsenal and Rennes.”

Greek champion Olympiakos faces Turkey’s Galatasaray in what could be a security problem because of the two nation’s traditional rivalry. Also in Group B is Benfica, Hertha Berlin and Metalist Kharkiv of Ukraine.

Another tough group has Hamburg and Ajax with Sparta Prague, Aston Villa and MSK Zilina of Slovakia. Valencia, one of four Spanish survivors, faces FC Brugge, Rosenborg, FC Copenhagen and Saint-Etienne.

Deportivo de La Coruna is grouped with CSKA Moscow, Feyenoord, Nancy and Lech Poznan.

The UEFA Cup final is set for May 20 in Istanbul.

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