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Tough trips to Italy await English duo in Europa League

| 27.08.2010

The draw for the Europa League group stages has been relatively unkind to Liverpool and Manchester City, but both will fancy their chances of progressing to the latter stages of the tournament.

Liverpool’s reward for battling past Trabzonspor in the final qualifying round was a spot in Group K, where they will face 1986 European champions Steaua Bucherest, Napoli and Celtic’s qualifying conquerors FC Utrecht.

Roy Hodgson’s team remain second favourites to win the Europa League at 8/1, while Napoli may be among the more fancied outsiders at 25/1.

Manchester City knew that they would draw at least one of the big guns of the competition from their seeding in pot two and they face their own Italian job by being placed in Group A alongside Juventus, who have won the competition three times in the past.

However, with the top two qualifying to the next round, they should safely progress with the other two teams being Austrian and Polish champions respectively Red Bull Salzburg and Lech Poznan.

City, who are the 11/2 favourites to win the competition, and Juventus have clashed in the competition before in its former guise of the UEFA Cup in 1976, with the Italians emerging triumphant 2-1 on aggregate during the first round showdown.

Meanwhile, the tie will also mean that Roberto Mancini’s new signing Mario Balotelli will return to the destination where he received racist abuse when playing for Inter Milan last season.

Juventus have been busy in the transfer market this summer, signing the likes of Simone Pepe and Milos Krasic, alongside acquiring Tiago and Alberto Aquilani on loan. They are 14/1 to win the Europa League.



Ed Needham