Germany’s five UEFA Cup representatives will have to overcome an assortment of Europe’s most respected football clubs to reach the next stage of the pan-European championship.
As of next year, the UEFA Cup will take on a new format
Each of the German clubs -- Schalke 04, Hertha BSC Berlin, Vfb Stuttgart, Vfl Wolfsburg and Hamburg -- was pooled in separate groups, with Germany being the most heavily represented nation at this stage of the tournament.
Awaiting former UEFA champions Schalke will be Europe's recently crowned richest club, Manchester City, which is bristling with offensive power after recently bringing on former Real Madrid star Robinho and ex-Chelsea attacking midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips.
The Blue and Whites also face Paris St Germain, Spain's Real Santander and FC Twente, who sit mid-table in the Dutch Eredivisie.
Jol excited by group
Hamburg SV coach Martin Jol is eagerly awaiting his club's UEFA Cup clashes
Current Bundesliga table-topers Hamburg, who have been victorious in five of their seven outings in the national league this season, will face Dutch outfit Ajax, who have endured a slow start to the domestic ‘08-‘09 season, as well as Slavia Prague, Aston Villa and MSK Zilina of Slovakia.
Hamburg coach Martin Jol said he relished the chance his club will have to prove itself against what he believed will be strong opposition.
"Ajax Amsterdam is a big club, Aston villa is the favorite of the group for me, Slavia Prague has been improving and MSK Zilina is a very compact team which sits second in the Slovak league," he said, as quoted on the club's Web site. "We look forward to these clashes."
Wolfsburg draw AC Milan
Felix Magath's Wolfsburg will be thrown in the deep end against nine-time European champions AC Milan, but still stand a decent chance of moving through to the tournament's next phase after also drawing Heerenveen of the Netherlands, Portugal's SC Braga and Portsmouth, who sit seventh after seven fixtures in England's top flight.
European champions AC Milan are favored to advance through their group
"We are playing clubs from strong football leagues in the Netherlands, Portugal, England and Germany so it will be interesting," AC Milan's organising director Umberto Gandini said, as quoted by Reuters.
"On the other hand we are a top seeded club, we think we have the ability to go through this round and that's our goal."
The Bundesliga's third-placed club, Stuttgart, face 2006 and 2007 UEFA Cup winners Sevilla, who similarly sit in third position in the Spanish La Liga, having not lost a match after six fixtures in this year's competition.
The Reds must also overcome Sampdoria, who currently sit near the base of the Italian Serie A, Serbia's Partizan Belgrade and Belgium's Standard Liege.
Hertha, who have had an up and down start to this Bundesliga season, will face Galatasaray, who will be buoyed by the prospect of playing in the May 20 final scheduled for Istanbul, as well as Portuguese powerhouse Benfica, Olympiacos of Greece and Metalist Kharkiv of the Ukraine.
The upcoming stage of the UEFA Cup was drawn Tuesday in Nyon, Switzerland, with matches set to commence Oct. 23 and run through to mid-December.
The top three teams from each of the eight groups will then meet the third-placed teams from each pool in the current Champions League section in the round of 32 in February.
From the 2009-10 season onwards the EUFA Cup will be held under a changed format and be renamed to UEFA Europa League.