The draw for the preliminary rounds of the Champions League and the UEFA Cup will take place at lunchtime today in Geneva. The Champions League draw takes place at 1 P.M., while the draw for the UEFA Cup draw will be held an hour later.
Premier League champion Maccabi Haifa, ranked 41 out of the 72 clubs, will enter the second qualifying round, which will be played on July 31 and August 7. Their opponents will be drawn from the 10 winners of the first qualifying round, which is to be played on July 17 and 24.
The 72 clubs in the preliminary rounds will all be aiming to join the big clubs of Europe in the Champions League proper, and the eventual final on May 28 at Old Trafford, Manchester.
On account of last season's quarterfinal success, Hapoel Tel Aviv has been seeded second out of 82 clubs in the UEFA Cup draw.
To make the draw easier, 10 groups have been created in accordance with the coefficient ranking list. Nine groups comprise eight clubs and the tenth has 10 clubs.
Each tie in the qualifying round will involve a seeded club playing an unseeded club. Hapoel's opposition in Group 2 will be drawn from Latvia's FK Ventspils (47), FK Pobeda of Macedonia (59), Armenia's FC Zvartnots AAL (67) and KS Partizani of Albania (74).
State Cup holder Maccabi Tel Aviv, which fell into into Group 5 and was seeded 11th, will have its opposition drawn from Macedonia's FK Belasica GC (60), FC Levadia Tallinn of Estonia (64), Northern Ireland's Cup winners Linfield FC (71) and CS Grevenmacher of Luxembourg.
The current security situation means that the Israeli teams' home games will have to be played abroad, as UEFA looks unlikely to want to change its decision to bar all international matches from being held here.
The situation has already affected Ashdod SC, which will play the home leg of its Intertoto Cup first-round tie with FC Brno of the Czech Republic far from home. Ashdod's away leg will be held first, on Sunday, in Brno; its home leg will be played six days later, in Slovakia.
Benayoun free to go
Be'er Sheva District Court Judge Neil Hendel refused yesterday to grant Hapoel Be'er Sheva its request to prevent star midfielder Yossi Benayoun from leaving the country, ordering the club to pay court costs of NIS 3,000.
Hapoel has asked the Israel Football Association to intervene in the matter, as it feels that as an interested party, it should have been consulted on Benayoun's sale to Racing Santander of Spain. Be'er Sheva claims that it had buyers for the player who were willing to pay a far higher price than the Spanish club had reportedly been prepared to pay.
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