Uefa Cup draw
Portsmouth’s players will get the chance to take on AC Milan
Portsmouth have been drawn in the same Uefa Cup group as AC Milan, while Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City have also been given tough opposition.
Aston Villa will play Ajax and Hamburg and Spurs’ main threat is likely to come from Spartak Moscow and Udinese.
Pompey, who host Milan on 27 November, also meet SC Braga and Vfl Wolfsburg.
But City, who play Schalke O4, Paris St Germain, Racing Santander and former England boss Steve McClaren’s FC Twente side, will face the stiffest test.
Each team is in a five-team group and will play two opponents at home and the other two away, with the opening games to be played on 23 October.
Three teams from each group qualify for the next knockout round.
The final is in Istanbul on 20 May.
Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie was delighted with his side’s draw.
“It is a dream,” Storrie told BBC Sport.
PORTSMOUTH UEFA CUP FIXTURES
23 Oct: Braga v Portsmouth
27 Nov: Portsmouth v AC Milan
4 Dec: Wolfsburg v Portsmouth
17 Dec: Portsmouth v H’veen
“I am sure a lot of our fans would have loved to have gone to the San Siro but, if they really think about it, to have one of the European giants at Fratton Park in a European game is absolutely fantastic.
“It will be a difficult game for them. They will find it a tough place to come and it will be interesting.”
Milan director Umberto Gandini is also looking forward to the tie, and to seeing the seven-time European champions playing Portsmouth for the first time.
“It is great for big clubs to play Premier League clubs in this competition,” Gandini told BBC Sport.
“We have not played them in our history but there are a couple of links between us.
“Peter Crouch plays there and we have played against him twice in two Champions League finals when he was at Liverpool so we know him from then.
MAN CITY UEFA CUP FIXTURES
6 Nov: Man City v Twente
27 Nov: Schalke v Man City
3 Dec: Man City v PSG
18 Dec: Santander v Man City
“Also, Portsmouth sold Mark Hateley to AC Milan back in the years before Silvio Berlusconi took over the club.”
City’s chief operating officer Paul Aldridge is looking forward to their campaign, which begins against FC Twente on 6 November.
“It looks a tough group but when you look around at some of the names we could have come up against, there were always going to be some tough games,” Aldridge told BBC Sport.
“The only thing with the group we’re in is that our manager Mark Hughes and his team will know a little bit more about these teams than some of the other clubs we could have potentially come up against.”
And McClaren, whose side lost to Arsenal in the qualifying rounds for the Champions League, is looking forward to facing more English opposition.
“I’ve just come back to England to catch up on football here, and the signings City have made are massive and they are expected to do very well,” the former Middlesbrough boss said. “It should be a fantastic occasion for us.
“We weren’t ready for Arsenal, that shows the gap. We are a young side, inexperienced, especially in Europe, but we will just enjoy it. It is about the future for these young players.”
TOTTENHAM UEFA CUP FIXTURES
23 Oct: Udinese v Spurs
6 Nov: Spurs v Dinamo Zagreb
27 Nov: NEC v Spurs
18 Dec: Spurs v Spartak
Tottenham sporting director Damien Comolli is adamant his side can improve on the poor start they have made domestically and qualify for the knockout stages.
“I am sure we will do well,” Comolli told BBC Sport. “The players are highly motivated about the UEFA Cup.
“We are not getting the results we thought we would get. But it is not time to be pointing fingers at anyone.
“Whenever you enter a competition, you are confident you will do well. I am sure we will improve in the Premier League and can use the Uefa Cup to get our confidence back.”
Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill knows his side must be at their best if they are to make it through their group and into the last 32.
O’Neill told his club’s website: “We start with Ajax at Villa Park which is a real mouth-watering tie.
ASTON VILLA UEFA CUP FIXTURES
23 Oct: Villa v Ajax
6 Nov: Slavia Prague v Villa
4 Dec: Villa v Zilina
17 Dec: Hamburg v Villa
“It’s just absolutely brilliant to be part of it all and being back in European competition is fantastic news for the club.
“Villa Park could be really rocking against Ajax in that opening game.
“The key now is that it is a step up in quality. If you look at some of the teams involved – for example AC Milan, Seville, Ajax – these are sides with a real pedigree.
“I said to the backroom staff before the draw that there are 10 or 12 teams still in the competition that could be contesting the Champions League.”
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