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By WagerWeb.com and Ecobika Sports Betting
Defending champion Sevilla was given a very doable task as it finds itself drawn into Group C of the group stages of the UEFA Cup.
Joining the Spaniards in the group are Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, Slovan Liberec of the Czech Republic, Swiss side Grasshoppers and Braga of Portugal.
"We simply have to win. AZ Alkmaar were in theory one of the teams we didn't really want in our group, but we can't complain," Sevilla coach Juande Ramos said.
The five-team group was one of eight drawn Tuesday in Nyon.
The top three in each group will go through to the final 32, where they will be joined by eight teams from the Champions League.
Perhaps the toughest group is Group B, where former winners Bayer Leverkusen and Tottenham Hotspur are joined by Belgians Club Brugge, Besiktas Istanbul of Turkey and Romania side Dinamo 1948 Bucharest.
"Obviously this is one of the toughest groups. But we will play and fight until the end. Football always offers surprises, even if all four opponents are so good and have massive experience at the European level," said Mircea Rednic, coach of heavy underdog Bucharest.
Group E is also wide open as two-time winner Feyenoord from Holland was joined by English side Blackburn Rovers, Nancy-Lorraine of France as well as Swiss Basel 1893 and Wisla Krakow of Poland.
"Overall it's not a bad draw, it could have been worse," Nancy defender Frederic Biancalani admitted, quite upbeat. "Before the last round (where Nancy beat Germans Schalke) no one believed in us. We'll enter the group stage with that spirit and a will to go further in the competition."
Some of the other group highlights have Newcastle drawn into Group H with Celta de Vigo, upstart Italians Palermo, Germans Eintracht Frankfurt and Turks Fenerbahce.
Palermo coach Francesco Guidolin knows he has plenty of work ahead of him in a top draw like this: "We have not been lucky with draws this season. We had to face a strong side like West Ham United in the first round and now we are in a very difficult group. There are no weak sides. We will have to play our best football if we want to go through."
In Group G, Czech side Mlada Boleslav got a tough test with French giant Paris St. Germain as reward for beating Olympique de Marseille to reach the group stages.
"We have French opponents for the second time in a row and after eliminating Marseille, I am sure we can defeat Paris St. Germain," Boleslav coach Dusan Uhrin said quite confidently for an underdog among the likes of Panathinaikos, Rapid Bucharest and Hapoel Tel Aviv.
"They are not playing well in their league but are probably the strongest side in our group," he said. "So I believe in our chances. Group H definitely would have been more difficult."
One more highlight is Group F, where Ajax Amsterdam will face Sparta Prague, Espanyol, Austria Vienna and Zulte Waregem of Belgium.
"Ajax are the clear favorites and Espanyol are also a very strong side," Sparta Prague coach Michel Bilek said. "We can play well-balanced games with the two other opponents and advance. It's a very attractive group for the fans."
Even though the biggest names of European soccer are not yet in the UEFA Cup, the group stage definitely promises some excellent play -- and plenty of surprises.
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