(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv received favorable draws in the first round of the UEFA Cup. The draw was held Friday afternoon at UEFA headquarters in Monaco.
Haifa, which "earned" a spot in the UEFA Cup after losing to Liverpool in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, will play Litex Lovech of Bulgaria.
"There are no easy draws in European competition," Haifa coach Roni Levy said after hearing of his first round opponent. "We will prepare for the match in the same way we get ready for any European team. I know that Litex is a very good side. We will start to research the team next week and prepare our side for the match."
Hapoel, which came back to beat Slovenian club Domzale in the second and final qualifying round, will face Chornomorets Odesa of Ukraine.
The 40 winners of the two-legged first round ties advance to to the group stage, at which the teams will be divided into eight groups of five.
Maccabi Haifa will host Litex in the first leg, which is scheduled for September 14, and will play the second leg in Bulgaria two weeks later.
Hapoel Tel Aviv will travel to Odesa for the first leg and will host the second leg.
Both teams are hoping that UEFA will allow their home legs to be played in Israel. A UEFA ban on European matches in the country is currently in place, and there are periodical meetings to discuss whether to remove the ban.
"I believe and hope that UEFA will return the matches to Israel," Levy said. "Playing at home in front of our fans will give us a big boost which we lacked against Liverpool."
Ajax to face Norway's IK Start
Four-time European champion Ajax was drawn against IK Start of Norway.
Ajax failed to qualify for the Champions League after losing to FC Copenhagen in a third-round qualifying match on Wednesday.
UEFA Cup champion Sevilla travels to Greece to play its first leg against Atromitos FC.
Newcastle was drawn against Levadia Tallinn of Estonia, while Rangers face Molde of Norway.
Blackburn plays Austria's FC Salzburg, West Ham takes on Palermo of Italy and Tottenham meets Slavia Prague.
Tottenham Hotspur will wear an all-white uniform for UEFA Cup matches - a throwback to the uniform won by the club in the 1960s and '70s.
"We had a board meeting and thought it would be a fantastic idea," said Tottenham's sporting director Damien Comolli. "It's very important for the fans."
Alan Pardew, West Ham's coach, said hosting the first leg at Upton Park may dictate the outcome of the tie against Palermo.
"It's a difficult draw, but one we can certainly look forward to and feel confident about," Pardew said. "We have the first leg at home, and that really is going to be the key for us."
AP contributed to this report.
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