Sevilla drawn in easy group

Nyon, October 3:

Defending champion Sevilla got an easy time in Tuesday’s draw for the group stage of the UEFA Cup.

The Spanish team was drawn against AZ Alkmaar, Slovan Liberec, Grasshoppers and Braga in Group C — one of eight groups of five. The teams will find out the match schedule on Friday, with each set to play two home games and two away.

Sevilla, which beat Middlesbrough 4-0 in May to win the UEFA Cup, was joined by six former champions in the draw. Ajax, Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen are also seeking a second title in Europe’s second-tier club competition, while Tottenham, Parma and Feyenoord are looking for a third. “AZ Alkmaar was one of the teams we didn’t want. But we had to get one of these, so we should forget about it now and face up to the group with optimism that we can advance,” Sevilla coach Juande Ramos said.

The top three teams in each group will advance to the knockout stage, where they’ll be joined by the eight third-place clubs from the group stage of the more prestigious Champions League. Newcastle, Celta Vigo, Palermo, Fenerbahce and Eintracht Frankfurt make up a challenging Group H. Newcastle won the 1969 Fairs Cup, the precursor to the UEFA Cup, and Eintracht won the 1980 UEFA Cup.

“We didn’t have any luck,” Palermo vice president Guglielmo Miciche said. “It’s by far the most difficult group. There are absolutely no weak teams in the group.”

Tottenham, winner in 1972 and 1984, is in Group B with 1988 winner Bayer Leverkusen, Belgium’s FC Brugge, Turkey’s Besiktas and Romania’s Dinamo Bucharest. Tottenham beat Belgium’s Anderlecht in the 1984 final and then eliminated Brugge from the following season’s competition.

Parma — the 1995 and 1999 winner — is in Group D with Lens, Heerenveen, Osasuna and Odense, while Feyenoord, which was champion most recently in 2002, is in Group E with FC Basel, Wisla Krakow, Blackburn and Nancy.

Ajax is in the UEFA Cup after being eliminated from Champions League qualifying. It’s in Group F with Sparta Prague, Espanyol, Austria Vienna and Belgium’s Zulte-Waregem.

Group A comprises Auxerre, Rangers, Partizan Belgrade, Livorno and Maccabi Haifa, and Group G is Panathinaikos, Paris Saint-Germain, Rapid Bucharest, Hapoel Tel-Aviv and Mlada Boleslav.

The matches will be played on October 19, November 2, 23, 29 and 30, and December 13 and 14.