The draw for the second stage of the Champions League and for the third round of the UEFA Cup will be made in Geneva today with all Israeli eyes on Maccabi Haifa.
While the Haifa delegates at the Noga Hilton hotel will be ruing their missed chance of having been grouped among the top 16 teams in Europe, they will nonetheless wait in anticipation for the UEFA Cup draw to find out their next opponents in European club competition.
The Champions League draw takes place at 12:30 P.M. Israel time, and the UEFA Cup draw will commence an hour later.
Haifa, which finished third in Group F behind Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen, will not be among the 32 seeded clubs in the draw and can expect to face a strong opponent.
The other teams that also dropped out of the Champions League into the UEFA Cup third round are Auxerre, Liverpool, AEK Athens, Lyon, Dynamo Kiev, FC Bruges and Lens.
The 16 teams in the Champions League's second group stage were divided up into four categories yesterday with the top two teams in each of the new groups being placed according to their ranking with the other two being drawn randomly, although teams of the same nationality will be kept apart.
The top four teams are Real Madrid, Manchester United, Valencia and Barcelona. The second foursome is made up of Juventus, Arsenal, Inter Milan and AC Milan. The third group is Deportivo La Coruna, Leverkusen, Roma and Dortmund while the fourth is Lokomotiv Moscow, Ajax Amsterdam, FC Basel and Newcastle.
The system has already determined that Manchester United will be grouped with Deportivo because the other three teams in the top grouping are all Spanish and United and Arsenal from the second grouping will be kept apart. Inter or Juventus will also be in the same group.
Real Madrid will be grouped with one of the two German clubs.
Haifa wants to avoid East European teams
Yaakov Shahar will represent Haifa at today's draw in Geneva and he will be hoping to avoid being drawn against an Eastern European side in order to maximize the possibility of income from TV rights. The feeling in the club also is that they will continue to host future matches in Nicosia.
Shahar said yesterday that he will decide on next season's budget only later in the season. The premise is that if Haifa wins the league title again, he will try to increase it from the current NIS 33 million.
"You have to remember that nobody can guarantee we'll qualify for next season's Champions League, and it would be a mistake to invest a lot of money and then not make it," Shahar said.
Had Maccabi made it to the second stage of the Champions League, the club would have been assured of more takings: an immediate bonus of between 2.5-3 million Swiss francs and then another three million Swiss francs for all six games. In shekel terms this would have amounted to NIS 20 million before the added income for draws or wins.
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