Monday, August 13, 2007

Liverpool Ready For Champions Qualifying Tussle

Five-times European champions Liverpool start their new Champions League campaign in Toulouse while Ajax Amsterdam and Arsenal face Czech opponents when the third qualifying round kicks off this week.

Ajax, four-times winners of Europe's top club competition, are at home to Slavia Prague and Arsenal travel to face neighbours Sparta Prague in first leg matches on Wednesday.

Three months after losing the 2007 final to AC Milan in Athens, Liverpool head to southwest France for a game between two sides who will be in buoyant mood.

Liverpool's talismanic captain Steven Gerrard gave his side a winning start to the Premier League on Saturday against Aston Villa with a superb late strike.

Toulouse also had a late win over Ligue 1 champions Olympique Lyon, who were however down to 10 men.

The French team's coach Elie Baup was anxious his side did not get carried away by their success, telling the club's Web site: "There was commitment, determination, desire and a real team spirit.

"We created nine or 10 chances and finally scored at the very end. The danger, though, in situations like these is what happens in the next match."

Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez is still haunted by their defeat in Greece - having beaten the Italians on penalties after trailing 3-0 at halftime in a memorable 2005 final.

"I am not over that Milan game yet, especially because I know we were so close to winning," he told the club's Web site.