Ajax and Juventus meet again in Europa League

BY foxsports • December 18, 2009

Ajax and Juventus were drawn together in the next round of the Europa League on Friday for a rerun of the 1996 Champions League final.

Ajax will host the first leg of the round-of-32 match on Feb. 18 before traveling to Turin for the return a week later.

Juventus beat Ajax in a shootout following a 1-1 draw in the 1996 Champions League final but the teams' fortunes have since waned.

The Italian side is in the Europa League after being eliminated from the Champions League, while Ajax was exposed to the toughest possible opponent by finishing second in its first-round group.

The winner over two games will meet Fulham or Shakhtar Donetsk in the next round. Fulham is in its first ever season of European football but its Ukrainian opponent is the de facto defending champion after winning last season's UEFA Cup before it was revamped as the Europa League.

Five-time European champion Liverpool and Unirea Urziceni, who were both eliminated from the Champions League, were paired in the round of 32, while AS Roma will meet Panathinaikos.

"We would rather be in the Champions League but we're not," Liverpool club ambassador Kenny Dalglish said. "We are where we are and we have just got to deal with it.

"We will give it as good a go to try to win it as if it was the Champions League. I think the boys will not let anyone down."

Red Bull Salzburg, the only team to gain the maximum 18 points from its six Europa League group matches, plays Standard Liege next.

"Standard has a very good team, especially in attack," Salzburg coach Huub Stevens said. "They have great supporters, it can get real hot there.

"This opponent is difficult, but we could've got more difficult."

Salzburg was one of the 12 group winners to be favored in the draw by playing its home match last in the round of 32. It gets no such protection should it advance.

Unirea also has the perceived advantage of playing second but general manager Mihai Stoica is not convinced that will be enough against an opponent that won its fifth Champions League title in 2005 and reached the final two years later.

"For us it, is a great experience," said Stoica, whose club reached Romania's top division just three years ago. "It is like David and Goliath. For sure, we will line up with 11 Davids and maybe it is not enough."

Also, Marseille meets FC Copenhagen, Atletico Madrid meets Galatasaray, Valencia plays FC Brugge, Everton plays Sporting Lisbon and Hamburg is up against PSV Eindhoven. Dutch league leader FC Twente plays Werder Bremen, Athletic Bilbao meets Anderlecht, Rubin Kazan plays Hapoel Tel Aviv, Villarreal plays Wolfsburg, Lille meets Fenerbahce, and Hertha Berlin plays Benfica.

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