Inter Milan, Parma, Olympique Lyon or Feyenoord will be Hapoel Tel Aviv's opponents in the next round of the UEFA Cup after the groupings were made yesterday ahead of today's draw.
Hapoel, one of the eight unseeded teams in the last-16 round of the competition, will find out today at 1 P.M. (live on Channel 5+) which of the four European powerhouse sides it will face in the next round in February, and should it miraculously advance into the quarterfinals, it will also discover which of two teams it will face in the quarterfinals.
Today's draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, near Geneva, will see two groups of eight clubs.
Group A includes seeded teams Valencia, Borussia Dortmund, Leeds United and AC Milan, the unseeded sides to be drawn against the seeds are PSV Eindhoven, Roda, Lille and Servette Geneva.
The seeded teams in Group B are Inter, Parma, Lyon and Feyenoord and their respective opponents will come from AEK Athens, Glasgow Rangers, Slovan Liberec and Hapoel.
Unlike the last-16 draw, the quarterfinal draw will be open. The dates for the fixtures are February 21 and 28 for the last-16, and March 14 and 21 for the quarterfinals.
Hapoel's placing in group B is relatively the easier group, although clearly all its potential opponents are better sides than the Tel Aviv outfit.
In the other group, Hapoel might have expected higher revenues from TV rights, but there appears to be no chance of it beating any of the four powerhouse teams in that section.
Of the four potential opponents, only Inter Milan looks to be a mountain too tall for the Israelis - but let's not forget that the same was said about Chelsea and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Inter, with Brazilian star Ronaldo back in action, is currently the leader of the Italian Serie A and looks a serious candidate to win the league for the first time since 1989.
Lyon is second in the French league, but is rightly considered to be the best club side in France.
Feyenoord is currently leading the Dutch league and only Parma looks to be in poor form and is in the Serie A relegation zone (in 16th place).
For the seeded teams, Hapoel will undoubtedly be seen as the most favored opponent. All four would prefer to face the reds from Tel Aviv rather than Rangers, AEK Athens or Slovan Liberec.
Elimelech to consult Kashtan on move
Hapoel Tel Aviv goalkeeper Shavit Elimelech will have a serious talk with his coach Dror Kashtan today on a possible move to a European team.
Elimelech, whose heroics in the UEFA Cup saw Hapoel advance past both Chelsea and Lokomotiv Moscow, is in two minds. He is reluctant to leave Hapoel on its great European run, yet the 30-year-old does not want to miss an opportunity to play for a major club (unnamed for the moment.)
Neither the player nor his agent, Oved Kraus, are willing to name the club that may be seeking Elimelech on loan until the end of the current season, with an option to buy him next season. One club known to be in desperate need of a goalkeeper is Greek side Olympiakos. Its first choice for the man between the posts, Dmitris Helestropoulos, has a hand injury that will keep him on the bench for at least three months.
Hapoel held a light workout yesterday with Denis Onishenko back in action after sitting out the match against Maccabi Netanya through injury. Hapoel will be looking to put that 3-0 loss behind them and will prepare for the next fixture, Monday's clash against struggling Betar Jerusalem. (Asher Goldberg)
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