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Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Friday, 28 August 2009 16:22 UK

British trio discover Europa fate

Fulham's Damien Duff, Celtic's Aiden McGeady and Everton's Marouane Fellaini
Fulham, Celtic and Everton all face tricky games in the group stage

The three British clubs in the Europa League have been handed tricky draws for the group stage of the competition.

Celtic, who enter the competition after failing to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League, face Hamburg, Hapoel Tel-Aviv and Rapid Vienna.

Fulham are in Group E, along with Italian side Roma, Swiss outfit Basel and Bulgaria's CSKA Sofia.

Everton play Benfica and face lengthy trips to Greece's AEK Athens and BATE Borisov of Belarus.

David Moyes' Everton defeated Czech side Sigma Olomouc 5-1 to reach the group stage.

They will face a Benfica side that has a rich pedigree in European football having won the European Cup in 1961 and 1962 and reached the final of the Uefa Cup in 1983.

But they finished third in the Portuguese league last season and despite boasting players such as Javier Saviola are no longer a major player on the European stage.


Fulham, embarking on their second European campaign, can look forward to a match against a Roma side able to call upon Francesco Totti.

"We are seeing this as an adventure," said manager Roy Hodgson.

"We are aware that for a team like Fulham to even reach this stage is a fantastic achievement.

"We will do our best and put on a good performance but I will not have sleepless nights if we lose to Roma. I will have sleepless nights if we are bottom of the Premier League and that is why it has to be the priority."

In recent years Roma fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester United have been marred by violence.

But Hodgson added: "I think that the fan violence is mostly prevalent when they play their local derby against Lazio or when Juventus or Inter or Milan are the visiting teams.

"I can't imagine that at this stage of the competition a team like Fulham or a team like Basel or Sofia going to engender the type of hatred that will get their fans sharpening their knives."

Celtic face a Hamburg outfit that finished fifth in the German Bundesliga last season under Martin Jol, who has now departed for Ajax.

"It is always good to win a competition, but it would be particularly good to become the first winners of the Europa League," said Celtic's Head of Operations Ronnnie Hawthorn.

"Especially as we were also the first British club to win the European Cup in 1967."

Tony Mowbray's side must also negotiate trips to Israel and Vienna, where they will take on a Rapid side that knocked Aston Villa out of the competition.

There are 48 teams at this stage of the competition, split into 12 groups of four, with the top two qualifying for the next round.

They will be joined at that stage by the eight teams that finish third in their Champions League group.

The first round of matches is scheduled for Thursday 17 September, with the final taking place in Hamburg, on Wednesday 12 May, 2010.

Shakhtar Donetsk, who triumphed in the Uefa Cup in May, will be aiming to become the first team to win the competition in its new format.

Meanwhile, Uefa is to experiment during the group stages with having five referees per match in an attempt to combat players' diving to win penalties and to help resolve other issues.

Two extra officials will stand next to each goal, behind the dead-ball line, to spot infringements and Uefa hopes the move will mean less foul play and simulation by players.

The move is also designed to help determine whether the ball has crossed the goal-line when there is doubt.

Uefa president Michel Platini said: "One day players will give up simulating because referees will see them.

"For years players have cheated because the referees were not of a good enough quality.

"I am convinced, with the extra officials, that if you have referees close by it will prevent players from simulating and they will take the right decision.

"I have always said it is better to have more referees than a multiplication of disciplinary procedures or to refer to videos during matches."

The move comes after Arsenal's Eduardo won a penalty in Wednesday's Champions League qualifier against Celtic - even though there looked to be little contact between the striker and keeper Artur Boruc.

Group A


Group B

Slavia Prague

Group C

Hapoel Tel-Aviv
Rapid Vienna

Group D

Sporting Lisbon
Hertha Berlin

Group E

CSKA Sofia

Group F

Dinamo Bucharest
Sturm Graz

Group G

Levski Sofia

Group H

Steaua Bucharest
FC Twente

Group I

AEK Athens

Group J

Partizan Belgrade

Group K

PSV Eindhoven
FC Copenhagen
Sparta Prague
CFR Cluj

Group L

Werder Bremen
Austria Vienna
Athletic Bilbao

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see also
British clubs avoid Euro giants
27 Aug 09 |  Europe
Amkar Perm 1-0 Fulham (agg 2-3)
27 Aug 09 |  Europe
Sigma Olomouc 1-1 Everton (1-5)
27 Aug 09 |  Europe
Aston Villa 2-1 R Vienna (2-2)
27 Aug 09 |  Europe
Hearts 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb (2-4)
27 Aug 09 |  Europe
Wenger angry over Eduardo charge
28 Aug 09 |  Europe
Eduardo defended over dive claims
27 Aug 09 |  Europe
Arsenal 3-1 Celtic (agg 5-1)
26 Aug 09 |  Europe

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