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Lugano and St Gallen head east

Lugano reached the Champions League qualifiers as Swiss league runners-up Keystone Archive

An eastern challenge awaits Lugano and St Gallen at the start of next season's European football campaigns.

On Friday Swiss league runners-up Lugano were drawn against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk in the second qualifying round for the European Champions League, while St Gallen were pitted against Macedonia’s Pelister in the UEFA Cup qualifying round.

Lugano’s assignment appears to be the toughest against a Shakhtar team who have recently proved worthy opponents to serial Ukraine champions Dynamo Kiev.

The Donetsk side have finished as runners-up to Kiev for the last four seasons and can also look back on some considerable exploits in last year’s Champions League.

After qualifying for the first group stage of the competition, Shakhtar pulled off impressive victories over London side Arsenal and Czech team Sparta Prague before their eventual exit.

Lugano will at least have the advantage of playing at home for the second leg of the qualifying tie. In just over a month, the Ticinese team are due to travel to Donetsk, on the far eastern edge of Ukraine, for the away game on July 25.

A week later on August 1, Lugano will be hoping to celebrate Swiss national day by using the home leg to book their place in the third and final qualifying round.

That final qualifying round will also see the introduction of Swiss league champions, Grasshoppers Zurich.

St Gallen’s trip to Macedonia will in many ways be a journey into the unknown. Manager Marcel Koller admitted to swissinfo on Friday that he would have to do some homework before the two August ties.

St Gallen manager Marcel Koller told swiss radio international that he would have to do a bit of homework before the two sides meet in August.

“I know that they play near the Greek border but as to how strong they are and how we’re going to go about getting there – it’s all a bit early for that,” Koller said. “We’re going to have to see if they also start their domestic league early or if they’ve got some warm-up games that we can send someone to or if I can get the chance.”

As Koller says it’s still early days, but St Gallen are already hoping they can at least match their performance in last season’s UEFA Cup where they overthrew London giants Chelsea before falling to Belgian side Bruges.

“Of course it’s going to be very difficult again, and first of all we have to make sure of a place in the first round by qualifying against the Macedonians. And then we’ll have the chance to hopefully play some big sides again. Bruges and Chelsea are again possible opponents and of course it’s fantastic to be able to play teams like that.”

Like Lugano, St Gallen will play their away leg first, travelling to Macedonia for the first match on August 9 before welcoming Pelister to Switzerland two weeks later.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR