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As things appear at the moment, the thoughts of Maccabi Tel Aviv's players and coach Nir Klinger are a million miles away from their upcoming games in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League.

With the squad split by vitriolic internal disputes and still unable to host their home games in Israel, Maccabi will face Slovakian champion MSK Zilina twice within the space of a week for the right to progress to the third and final qualifying round of the world's richest soccer tournament. The first meeting will be on July 30 in Slovakia, the second in Budapest on August 6.

This afternoon, at the offices of UEFA in Nyon, Switzerland, Maccabi will learn the identity of its opponent in the third qualifying round - assuming that the Slovaks are dispatched in the second round.

The draw, which starts at 1 P.M., will include the 18 teams that qualify automatically for the third round, and the 28 teams, including the Israeli champion, which will compete to be among the 14 additional teams that will play in the third round on August 6 and 14.

Maccabi can expect a much tougher opponent in the next round.

British teams to be kept apart

English teams Newcastle United and Chelsea will avoid Scottish rivals Rangers and Celtic in the third qualifying round of the Champions League following the publication of UEFA's seedings list yesterday.

The four British teams were named among the 16 seeds for the third qualifying round, which will be drawn today. Under the rules seeded teams cannot face each other, and nor can teams from the same country.

Celtic, however, must first overcome Lithuanian side Kaunas in the second qualifying round.

The final seeded team, Belgian club Anderlecht, also have to see off Rapid Bucharest to earn a place in the third round.

Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam, Germany's Borussia Dortmund, Italy's Lazio, French team Olympique Marseille, Turkey's Galatasaray and Spanish sides Deportivo Coruna and Celta Vigo are among the other teams seeded.

Portugal's Benfica, Swiss side Grasshoppers, Austria Vienna and Belgium's Club Bruges, which all earned automatic places in the third qualifying round, are not seeded and will therefore also face seeded opponents.

The 16 seeds: Lazio; Deportivo Coruna; Celta Vigo; Galatasaray; Borussia Dortmund; Chelsea; Glasgow Celtic or Kaunas; AEK Athens; Dynamo Kiev; Ajax Amsterdam; Newcastle United; Glasgow Rangers; Sparta Prague; Olympique Marseille; Lokomotiv Moscow; Anderlecht or Rapid Bucharest.