Dream or Death for Hapoel Tel Aviv?

The draw for the UEFA Cup group stage will be held today at noon, and Hapoel Tel Aviv will be there for the second straight year.

As in recent years, there will be eight groups of five teams each; each group will be made up of one club from each of five pots. Each club faces the other teams in its group once, and the top three teams in each group advance. The 24 teams from the UEFA Cup group stage are joined by the eight third-place finishers in the Champions League group stage, for a total of 32 teams who move on to the knockout stage.

Hapoel Tel Aviv is in the fourth pot, mostly due to the many upsets in the first round of the competition. The pots can be misleading, as a team like Atletico Madrid, which advanced from the Intertoto Cup and has not had much European success recently, is a very strong club but is in the third pot, while Austria Wien, a relatively weak club, is in the second pot.

Hapoel Tel Aviv could theoretically get a "group of death" with Bayern Munich, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid and F.C. Zurich, which would be impossible to advance from - but which would be worth a lot of money in broadcast fees. On the other hand, a group with Basel, Austria Wien, Stade Rennais and Helsingborgs could be the best-case scenario regarding the chances of at least advancing.

Hapoel Tel Aviv is expected to host a second-pot club on October 25 and a fifth-pot club on December 5-6, and to face away matches against a third-pot club on November 8 and against a first-pot club on December 19-20. However, constraints regarding the stadiums and the weather could alter the dates or whether Hapoel will be home or away. Last year, Hapoel was supposed to visit Bucharest and host Saint Germain, but in fact the opposite happened.