Liverpool go to battle with Hearts
Soccer:Liverpool have been drawn to face Hearts in an all-British affair in the Europa League play-offs. The Reds cruised into the final qualifying round of the competition with a 4-0 aggregate win over FC Gomel of Belarus, while Hearts qualified for this stage by virtue of winning the William Hill Scottish Cup.
Newcastle will face Atromitos of Greece, while Motherwell have been given a tough assignment after being drawn against Spanish Primera Division side Levante.
The first leg is set to be played on either August 22nd or 23rd with the return a week later and the undoubted interest in Britain will be Liverpool’s clash with Hearts, who will host the first leg.
It's a welcome draw for the Reds, who have avoided an energy-sapping foreign trip three days before their second league match of the season against Manchester City.
However, it may prove to be a baptism of fire for new manager Brendan Rodgers, who will see his side travel to West Brom, then Tynecastle for the first leg before the small matter of hosting the Premier League champions Manchester City all within the space of eight days.
Newcastle’s challenge is equally daunting as they must travel to Greece in-between their Premier League curtain-raiser at home to Tottenham and a trip to Champions League winners Chelsea.
Atromitos will prove to be a tough challenge in likely testing conditions, with the Athens-based side finishing fourth in the Greek Super League.
They were 23 points adrift of champions Olympiacos, with whom Alan Pardew’s men drew 1-1 in a friendly in Portugal last month.
Fellow Greek outfit Panathinaikos dumped Motherwell out of the Champions League stage with a thumping 5-0 aggregate win in the recently completed third qualifying round.
Stuart McCall’s men therefore drop into the Europa League and they find their route to the main draw blocked by Levante, who enter European football for the first time after finishing sixth in La Liga last season.
They do not have any links to Scottish football but do count former Rangers duo Gabriel Amato and Shota Arveladze and current Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby amongst their ex-players.
Well will host the first leg before travelling to the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia a week later.
Europa League play-off round
Anzhi Makhachkala v AZ
APOEL FC v Neftci
Atromitos v Newcastle
Tromso v FK Partizan
Vaslui v Inter Milan
Hearts v Liverpool
Athletic Bilbao v HJK Helsinki
Maritimo v FC Dila Gori/Anorthosis Famagusta
Molde v Heerenveen
Debrecen v Club Brugge
Sheriff Tiraspol v Marseille
Trabzonspor v Videoton FC
Midtjylland v Young Boys
Slask Wroclaw v Hannover 96
Dinamo Bucurest v FC Metalist Kharkiv
AC Horsens v Sporting
Hapoel Tel-Aviv v F91 Dudelange
Feyenoord v Sparta Prague
Motherwell v Levante
Crvena Zvezda v Bordeaux
Lokeren v Plzen
Lazio v Mura
AIK v CSKA Moscow
Legia Warsaw v Rosenborg
Bursaspor v FC Twente
Steaua Bucuresti v Ekranas
Liberec v Dnipro
VfB Stuttgart v Dinamo Moscow
PAOK v Rapid Vienna
Luzern v Genk
Zeta v PSV