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Tough draws for Grasshoppers and Lugano

Grasshoppers' likely opponents, FC Porto, celebrate last season's Portuguese Cup triumph

(Keystone)

Grasshoppers Zurich and Lugano may both have to overcome former European champions if they are to qualify for this season's Champions League competition.

Friday's third round qualifying draw at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon threw down two daunting challenges for the only Swiss representatives.

As league champions Grasshoppers go straight into the final qualifying round, but their likely opponents will be FC Porto, the Portuguese giants, who won the European Cup in 1987 by beating Bayern Munich 2-1.

As well as having had success in Europe, Porto can look back on a distinguished history at home, where they have won 18 league titles and 15 cup finals.

The current side includes Portuguese internationals Vitor Baia, Jorge Costa, Carlos Secretario and Paulinho, while their 76,000-capacity Stadio das Antes stadium should provide a spine-tingling setting for Grasshoppers' latest European challenge.

A footballing miracle may yet save Grasshoppers from making the trip to Portugal though. Since Porto must first see off Welsh minnows Barry Town in the second round, an unexpected journey to South Wales could yet face the Zurich side.

Like Porto, Lugano must win through two qualifying rounds if they are to make it into the competition proper. Prior to Friday's third round draw, Roberto Morinini's men already knew that they would be taking on Ukrainian side Shaktor Donetsk in the penultimate round.

Now they have learned that the prize for success against the Ukrainians will be a demanding encounter with Borussia Dortmund in the final qualifying round.

The German top division team are also previous winners of Europe's top club prize, having lifted the Champions League trophy in 1997, following a 3-1 win over Juventus.

"The prospect of playing Borussia Dortmund will give extra motivation to our players ahead of their two matches against Shakhtor Donetsk," reckoned Lugano president Helios Jelmini on Friday.

"We will play our home game against the Ukrainians at our own ground," Jelmini added, "but if we get through our 'home' game against Dortmund will be held in Basel."

Friday's draw could have been tougher for the two Swiss sides, but not by much. According to UEFA's own ranking system, Borussia Dortmund and Porto were the 5th and 7th strongest teams in the draw - behind the likes of Barcelona, Lazio, Parma and Liverpool.

swissinfo with agencies


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