UEFA Cup trio is drawn into groups

AEK, Aegaleo, and Panionios, Greece’s three remaining UEFA Cup representatives this season, were drawn into the competition’s inaugural group stage yesterday. The UEFA Cup’s new format, comprising eight groups of five teams each, replaces the tournament’s traditional knockout home-and-away rounds from the outset to the final. All 40 teams earned their group berths through qualifiers. Thessaloniki club PAOK, Greece’s other UEFA Cup entry, failed to make it through the qualifying phase. AEK, which has made an impressive 2-1-0 start in this year’s Greek league and lies tied for second with Aegaleo, two points behind front runner Panathinaikos, was drawn into the competition’s Group H with French club Lille, Spain’s Sevilla, Germany’s Allemania Aachen and Russia’s Zenit St Petersburg. Aegaleo will face Italy’s Lazio, Spain’s Villarreal, England’s Middlesbrough, and Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and Montenegro in Group E. Panionios, drawn in Group D, will meet English club Newcastle United, Portugal’s Sporting, France’s Sochaux, and Georgian team Dinamo Tbilisi. The competition’s group phase begins October 21. Opening their campaigns in Athens, Panionios and Aegaleo meet two English rivals, Newcastle and Middlesbrough respectively. AEK will travel to Russia for an away clash against Zenit St Petersburg.