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Friday, July 04, 2008

2008/2009 Champions League Draw

According to the UEFA, Fenerbahce, which was a quarterfinalist in the Champions League last season, was drawn against MTK Budapest on Tuesday for the 2008-09 Champions League.

The draw for the first two qualifying rounds was held, and Fenerbahce was among 14 teams given byes into the second round of qualifying on July 29-30 and Aug. 5-6. UEFA Cup finalists Glasgow Rangers is one of the other teams given a bye.

AS we know, the Champions League qualifying stages begin with the first round on July 15-16 and July 22-23. The 14 winners advance to the second round to fill out the 28- team stage.

The second qualifying round winners will advance to the third qualifying round, where they will be joined by another 18 teams, with the draw on Aug. 1. The 32 clubs involved will then compete in 16 fixtures for the right to follow the 16 automatic qualifiers into the group stage.

This season's final will be played at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on May 27, 2009.

Following are the first and second round qualifying draws:

First qualifying round draw:

Linfield (Northern Ireland) vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) Valetta (Malta) vs. Artmedia Petrzalka (Slovakia) Dinamo Tbilisi (Georgia) vs. NSI Runavik (Faroe Islands) 4 Santa Coloma (Andorra) vs. Kaunus (Lithuania) Murata (San Marino) vs. IFK Goteborg (Sweden) Llanelli (Wales) vs. Ventspils (Latvia) Anorthosis Famugusta (Cyprus) vs. Pyunik (Armenia) FK Inter Baki (Azerbaijan) vs. Rabotnicki (Macedonia) Tampere United (Finland) vs. Buducnost Podgorica (Montenegro) F91 Dudelange (Luxemborg) vs. Domzale (Slovenia) Dinamo Tirana (Albania) vs. FK Modrica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) Aktobe (Kasakhstan) vs. Sheriff (Moldova) Drogheda United (Ireland) vs. Levadia Tallinn (Estonia) FC BATE Borisov (Belarus) vs. Valur (Iceland)

Second qualifying round draw:

Rangers (Scotland) vs. FC Santa Coloma-FBK Kaunus winner SK Brann (Norway) vs. Llanelli-Ventspils winner FK Inter Baki-Rabotnicki winner vs. Partizan (Serbia) Tampere United-Buducnost Podgorica winner vs. Valetta-Artmedia Petrzalka winner Anorthosis Famugusta-Pyunik winner vs. Rapid Vienna (Austria) F91 Dudelange-Domzale winner vs. Linfield-Dinamo Zagreb winner Panathinaikos (Greece) vs. Dinamo Tbilisi-NSI Runavik winner Murata-IFK Goteborg winner vs. Basel (Switzerland) Aktobe-Sheriff winner vs. Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) Drogheda United-Levadia Tallinn vs. FC Dinamo Kyiv (Ukraine) RSC Anderlecht (BEL) vs. FC BATE Borisov-Valur winner Beitar Jerusalem FC (Israel) vs. Wisla Krakow (Poland) Fenerbahce (TUR) vs. Budapest (Hungary) Aalborg (Denmark) vs. Dinamo Tirana-FK Modrica winner

Harry Kewell moves to Turkey

It's far removed from the glamour and millions of dollars you normally associate with the best football competitions in the world such as the English Premiership, Spain's Liga and Italy's Serie A.

In keeping with his profile in football, australian star Harry Kewell was linked with a move to any number of clubs in those competitions. As recently as last week he was reportedly on the verge of signing with Italian club AS Roma.

However Turkey is going to be Kewell's new home after he ended the protracted guessing game over his future by signing a three-year deal with Turkish champion FC Galatasaray.

Indeed, Kewell, who was released by Liverpool at the end of the recently completed English season, made one of the biggest decisions of his career by steering in a direction that has served a number of Australian internationals well over the years.

They include Josip Skoko (Genclerbirligi SK, 2003-05), Nick Carle (Genclerbirligi OFTAS 2007-08), Michael Petkovic (Trabzonspor, 2002-05 and Sivasspor, 2005-08) and Mile Sterjovski (Genclerbirligi OFTAS, 2007). Recently capped Socceroos forward Bruce Djite has signed with Genclerbirligi SK.

Despite that, none of those clubs can compare in terms of prestige to Galatasaray, which is regarded as a giant of Turkish football.

Along with Fenerbache, the Lions, as they are known, have won the Turkcell Super League a record 17 times, but it is a club which fancies mixing it with the super powers of Europe.

While the Turkish competition does not have automatic entry to the Champions League -- the Turkish champion enters in the third qualifying round and the runner-up in the second round -- Galatasaray has featured regularly in both the Champions League and UEFA Cup.

The club's biggest success came when it beat Arsenal in a penalty shoot-out in the UEFA Cup final in 1999-2000, becoming the first Turkish club to win a major European title. That year it also beat Real Madrid in the Super Cup.

It's important to mention that Galatasaray has failed just once in the past 10 years to make it to Europe and this is obviously one of the main reasons Kewell has joined the club. It will be interesting to see how Kewell, who values his privacy, copes with the different lifestyle in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city and the most populated in Europe and the third most populated in the world.

Indeed, he has spent all his football life in England, having gone to Leeds as a 15-year-old in 1995 and spending eight years there before joining Liverpool in a much heralded move in 2003.

But Liverpool FC never saw the best of the attacking midfielder because of a series of injuries.

Kewell, 29, was hammered by sections of the English media which claimed he failed to deliver for Liverpool and the money the club had spent on him had virtually gone down the drain.

As we know, Liverpool FC made a token gesture to keep him at the end of the season, but it was never going to be enough and he left the club on a free transfer.