Smalling relishing Ajax meeting

United dropped into the Europa League after elimination from the

Champions League and now face Ajax over two legs, the first to be

played at the Amsterdam ArenA. Smalling said: “(Exiting the

Champions League) was a massive disappointment, but then you look

at the calibre of teams that are in there (Europa League). “We have

drawn Ajax, they have a lot of history. That will be a good test.

If you are in there, a lot of the teams will be kicking on. Whoever

wins the competition will be a good team.” Manchester City manager

Roberto Mancini is preparing for a Europa League outing which

“feels like a Champions League game”. City were paired with

reigning champions Porto who also won the 2004 Champions League.

The Portuguese club host City in the first leg before a return

fixture at the Etihad Stadium and Mancini admitted it is as tricky

a test as he could have imagined. “Manchester City against Porto

feels like a Champions League game, it is probably the toughest

game we could have had,” he said. “I have come up against them as a

player before and also a manager, they are a very good team and a

very strong club in Europe. “They are used to playing in Europe, in

a great stadium. Not too many years ago they won the Champions

League and also won the Europa League last year. So they are a

strong team. “It will be a hard match for us. We know this game

will be difficult, but also it will be difficult for them. It is a

good game for the fans, a big team coming to Manchester, and we

will be looking forward to it.” Another of the big-name Champions

League fallers, Primera Division side Valencia, will face Stoke,

with the first leg at the Britannia Stadium. Lazio meet Atletico

Madrid in another eye-catching fixture that will see one side fall

well short of their expectations in the competition. The three

other drop-in sides from the Champions League – Viktoria Plzen,

Trabzonspor and Olympiacos – have been matched with Schalke, PSV

Eindhoven and Rubin Kazan respectively. The remaining fixtures in

the round of 32 are Salzburg v Metalist Kharkiv, AZ Alkmaar v

Anderlecht, Steaua Bucharest v FC Twente, Lokomotiv Moscow v

Athletic Bilbao, Udinese v PAOK Salonika, Braga v Besiktas, Wisla

Krakow v Standard Liege, Hannover v Club Brugge and Legia Warsaw v

Sporting Lisbon.