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English Premiership

Liverpool learn European fate

PARIS, July 17 – Some of Europe's biggest clubs learnt their immediate fates in continental competition on Friday when the third-round qualifying draws for the Champions League and Europa League were made.Liverpool and Juventus have 45 league titles and seven European Cups between them, but enter the second-tier Europa League at the qualifying stage after both finished a dismal seventh in their national leagues last season.

Roy Hodgson’s first competitive match as Liverpool coach will be a home game against either FC Rabotnicki of Macedonia or Armenian club FC Mika.

"It is every bit as difficult as I was expecting," said Hodgson.

"At this stage of the qualifying round there are a lot of teams from countries you don’t know too well and teams who probably will not make it to the latter stages of the competition.

"I know Rabotnicki are in Europe every year but I don’t know much about Mika, although I know Armenia, having been there as Finland manager.

"We know we will get two tough games and it is up to us to get as much information as we can in the limited period of time we have. That is what we will do.

"We also have to get as many of our players as fit as we can for the first leg, but we already know the four players involved in the World Cup final won’t be involved in these games."

Juventus, meanwhile, await the winners of the second qualifying round tie between Ireland’s Shamrock Rovers and Israeli team Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv.

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The first legs of the Europa League ties will take place on July 29, followed by the second legs on August 5.

Former European champions Ajax and Celtic will have to qualify for a place in next season’s Champions League after both finishing second in their domestic leagues last term.

Celtic, European champions in 1967, were paired with Sporting Braga, runners-up behind Benfica in last season’s Portuguese championship, in the draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

"It’s a difficult opponent, from the possible ones perhaps the most difficult," said Braga sporting director Fernando Couto, whose club will be making their debut in Europe’s premier club competition.

"But we are now at a very high level and all the teams at this stage are big teams. It’s a great opponent from a very tough league, but we have our weapons. If we want to be among the best we must beat these kind of teams."

Ajax, who have won the European Cup four times, will play Greek side PAOK Salonika, with the first leg taking place on either July 27 or 28 and the return leg following on August 3 or 4.

"They have a number of South Americans, who are usually good players," Ajax coach Martin Jol told

"In Greece it is always hectic with the fanatical fans. That is why it is important to have a good result at home, to make sure you are not dependent on the hectic away situations."

Ukrainian powerhouses Dynamo Kiev meet Belgian outfit Gent, with Turkish heavyweights Fenerbahce facing Luxembourg minnows Young Boys Differdange and Russians Zenit St Petersburg to play Unirea Urziceni of Romania.

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National champions Anderlecht (Belgium), FC Copenhagen (Denmark) and Basel (Switzerland) also enter the competition at this stage.

The winners qualify for a place in the Champions League play-off round, from which 10 teams will progress to the lucrative group phase.

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