Unlucky Hap TA dealt dates with Kazan

Unlucky Hap TA dealt dat

police throw stones at protesters in Alexandria 150 (photo credit: REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)
police throw stones at protesters in Alexandria 150
(photo credit: REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)
Hapoel Tel Aviv was handed the one opponent it desperately hoped to avoid in the draw for the round of 32 of the Europa League on Friday. Tel Aviv had hoped to face the weakest possible side, or at least be paired with an illustrious name in Switzerland, ensuring a big payday even should the club be knocked out in the last 32. However, Hapoel was drawn to play Russian champion Rubin Kazan, a very strong, yet unattractive opponent. Kazan, which will host Tel Aviv on February 18 before playing the return leg at Bloomfield Stadium a week later, advanced to the round of 32 after finishing third in Champions League Group F, behind European champion Barcelona and Inter Milan. The two-time defending Russian champion recorded a stunning 2-1 victory over Barcelona at Camp Nou and drew three more matches in the group before eventually missing out on a place in the last 16 following a 2-0 loss at Inter in its final group match. "Kazan beat Barcelona away from home, and that pretty much says it all," said Hapoel coach Eli Gutman, whose team finished top of the Europa League's Group C following Thursday's 1-0 victory over Hamburg. "We will learn all we can about them and we've got plenty of time to prepare." Star midfielder Gili Vermut was disappointed at the prospect of playing in the frigid Russian winter. "This is the least attractive opponent we could have drawn and yet one of the toughest teams we could have faced," Vermut said. "Kazan beat the great Barcelona, but we will not give up without a fight." Kazan coach Gurban Berdiyew refused to rule out Hapoel's chances. "I don't consider us the favorites for this tie," he said. "We have got plenty of time before we face them and I still don't know what team I will be playing." Kazan clinched the Russian League title five weeks ago and doesn't begin to play locally again until March. Meanwhile, Ajax and Juventus were drawn together on Friday for a rerun of the 1996 Champions League final. Ajax will host the first leg 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. 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, Villarreal plays Wolfsburg, Lille meets Fenerbahce, and Hertha Berlin plays Benfica. AP contributed to this report.