European soccer?s governing body, UEFA, may decide today that Israeli clubs will not be able to host matches in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup and the third qualifying round of the Champions League due to the current security situation.
Any decision is expected to apply only to qualifying round matches scheduled to take place in the second and the final week of August. The draw for the qualifying rounds takes takes place tomorrow in Nyon, Switzerland.
Four Israeli clubs will take part in tomorrow?s draw ? Hapoel Tel Aviv, Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Yehuda in the UEFA Cup, and Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League.
Maccabi Haifa is unseeded in the Champions League draw and could face one of the 16 seeded teams. The identity of 13 of the seeds ? based on UEFA?s 2006 team rankings ? is already known, although Milan?s place in the third qualifying round will be discussed today by UEFA?s emergency panel in light of the club?s involvement in the match-fixing scandal that has rocked Italian soccer.
The remaining three seeds will come through from the second qualifying round. Levski Sofia, Dynamo Kiev and Steaua Bucharest are seeded, but if any of the three loses to its second round opponent, its ranking coefficient will be taken over by the winning team for the third round.
Haifa will be hoping that one of the three loses to their unseeded opponents: Nova Gorica of Slovenia plays Bucharest, Sioni Bolnisi of Georgia takes on Levski Sofia and Metalurgs Liepaja faces Dynamo Kiev.
A draw against one of the unseeded teams will put Haifa within reach of the group stage, but it could also find itself facing much tougher opposition with Milan ?(if its participation is approved?), Liverpool, Arsenal, Valencia, Hamburg, Lille, Ajax, Benfica, Steaua Bucharest, CSKA Moscow, AEK Athens, Dynamo Kiev and Galatasaray all in the draw.
The identity of the possible opponents of the Israeli teams in the UEFA Cup will only be known tonight, after the conclusion of the first qualifying round.
The 35 winners will be joined by 29 clubs entering the competition at this stage, including the eleven advancing from the UEFA Intertoto Cup.
The 32 survivors of the second qualifying round on 10 and 24 August will enter the first round proper, to be staged over two legs on 14 and 28 September, where 48 other clubs will lie in wait, including holders Sevilla FC and the 16 sides eliminated in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. The first-round winners will participate in the UEFA Cup group stage.
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