Bajevic up against his old club

Dusan Bajevic, now coach of Aris, who was sacked by Red Star Belgrade last March, will face his old club in the UEFA Cup’s group stage, yesterday’s draw in Nyon determined. Aris, drawn in Group F, one of eight five-team groups, qualified for the competition’s group stage along with Greece’s four other candidates: AEK, Panathinaikos, Larissa and Panionios. Also drawn in Group F were Bayern Munich, which Bajevic described as the competition’s most formidable team, Bolton and Portuguese club Braga. «Bayern are the best side in the competition and will top our group. We have nothing to lose and we will give it our best shot – I believe we have a fair chance of qualifying. It’s important to record a victory in our first home game against Red Star to lift spirits ahead of our trip to Bolton. We need at least two victories to qualify and won’t feel the pressure we had against Zaragoza. I believe in my players’ abilities,» said Bajevic. Aris begins its campaign on November 8 against Red Star in Thessaloniki. AEK coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, whose team was drawn in Group C along with Villarreal, Fiorentina, Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Republic and Swedish champion Elfsborg, described the competition as «UEFA Champions League quality.» «Fiorentina and Villarreal are traditional, experienced European sides who compete in very strong leagues. We’re eager to show that we can do great things in this competition, but the first match at Elfsborg will be a tricky one because of their artificial turf,» said Ferrer, whose team leads the Greek league. AEK is hosted by Elfsborg on October 25. Drawn into Group B with Lokomotiv Moscow, Atletico Madrid, FC Copenhagen and Aberdeen, Panathinaikos begins its quest in Athens against Aberdeen on October 25. «I think we can qualify along with Lokomotiv and Atletico. Russian teams have greatly improved in recent years and have invested a lot of money,» said Panathinaikos’s Dimitris Salpiggidis. Larissa faces AZ Alkmaar, Zenit St Petersburg, Everton and Nuremberg in Group A. Panionios, in Group H, meets Bordeaux, Austria Vienna, Galatasaray and Helsingborg. All UEFA Cup group-stage qualifiers play two games at home and two away. The top three from each group advance to the next stage where home-and-away knockout encounters begin all the way to the final on May 14 at the City of Manchester stadium.