Man United to face Ajax in Europa League
The often-maligned Europa League received a boost Friday when
Manchester United and Ajax were paired to face each in the other in
the Round of 32.
Ajax will host Man United on Feb. 16 in a clash of clubs who
have been European champion a combined seven times.
”It’s two teams that should have been in the Champions League
still,” Ajax commercial director Henri van der Aat told The
Associated Press. ”They (United) will be very motivated. You have
to show the world that even if you are in the Europa League, that
you can win it.”
Also, defending champion FC Porto will play Premier League
leader Manchester City as the first two matches in the draw
featured teams who joined UEFA’s second-tier competition after
exiting the Champions League.
In other matches, 2010 Europa League champion Atletico Madrid
will face Lazio, while Europe’s two highest-ranked leagues were
brought together in a Stoke-Valencia pairing.
Also, it was: Udinese vs. PAOK Thessaloniki; Locomotiv Moscow
vs. Athletic Bilbao; Viktoria Plzen vs. Schalke; Salzburg vs.
Metalist Kharkiv; Rubin Kazan vs. Olympiakos; AZ Alkmaar vs.
Anderlecht; Steaua Bucharest vs. FC Twente; Wisla Krakow vs.
Standard Liege; Braga vs. Besiktas; Trabzonspor vs. PSV Eindhoven;
Hannover vs. Club Brugge; and Legia Warsaw vs. Sporting Lisbon.
All but one of the first legs will be played Feb. 16, with the
return matches scheduled for Feb. 23 – with the exception of the
Man City-Porto match on Feb. 22.
Man City was seeded in Friday’s draw but got no luck after
placing third in the strongest Champions League group, finishing
behind Bayern Munich and Napoli.
”Porto is probably the toughest game we could have,” City
manager Roberto Mancini said. ”Manchester City against Porto feels
like a Champions League game. We know this game will be difficult,
but also it will be difficult for them.”
UEFA also drew the pairings for the last 16, which will be
played on March 8 and 15.