Last season`s quarter-finalists Fenerbahçe SK will begin their UEFA Champions League bid against MTK Budapest following the draws for the first two qualifying rounds, according to UEFA.
The draws were made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, today with Fenerbahçe among 14 teams given byes to the second qualifying round on 29/30 July and 5/6 August. They will be joined by the 14 clubs who battle through the 28-strong first qualifying round on 15/16 and 22/23 July. Among those ties, Slovakian side FC Artmedia Petržalka – who competed in the 2005/06 group stage – face Maltese champions Valletta FC while two-time UEFA Cup winners IFK Göteborg meet San Marino`s S.S. Murata and NK Dinamo Zagreb tackle Linfield FC of Northern Ireland.
Along with Fenerbahçe, the second qualifying round features other names familiar with the group stage. Last season`s UEFA Cup finalists Rangers FC take on Lithuanian title-holders FBK Kaunas or Andorra`s FC Santa Coloma, RSC Anderlecht encounter FC BATE Borisov of Belarus or Iceland`s Valur Reykjavík while FC Dynamo Kyiv play Irish champions Drogheda United FC or FC Levadia Tallinn from Estonia. AC Sparta Praha are pitted against Moldova`s FC Sheriff or Kazakhstan`s FK Aktobe, and Panathinaikos FC engage Georgia`s FC Dinamo Tbilisi or NSÍ Runavík from the Faroe Islands. Fresh from helping to host UEFA EURO 2008™, FC Basel 1893 will welcome Göteborg or Murata to St. Jakob-Park for the second leg of their tie while the only other confirmed match is between Beitar Jerusalem FC and Wisla Kraków.
Both draws were conducted at UEFA headquarters by UEFA General Secretary David Taylor, and Michele Centenaro, UEFA`s head of club competitions. 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 1 August. 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 27 May 2009.