SA stars in Europa cup action
THERE will be a few interested South African spectators when the draw is made for the knockout rounds of the Uefa Europa League competition tomorrow.
Thulani Serero's Ajax Amsterdam and Anele Ngcongca's Genk are in the last 32 of the Europa League and will be hoping to avoid the big guns that litter the draw.
The remaining 32 sides consist of 16 seeded and unseeded clubs, with these drawn against each other over two-legged ties on February 14 and 21 next year. Both Ngcongca and Serero will hope to have lifted the Africa Cup of Nations trophy just four days earlier.
Genk are one of the seeded sides after topping their pool, but the way the tournament has panned out this season, they might have been better off finishing second with so many top clubs in the unseeded group.
Awaiting them as possible opponents are Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur, defending champions Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen and Serero's Ajax side. Only Chelsea and Lazio look like really tough opponents among the seeded teams.
Whatever the outcome of the draw, the latter stages of the competition will provide valuable experience to both players, though Ngcongca is now a veteran of European club football having played in the Champions League or Europa League for the past four years.
Serero's Ajax reached this stage after finishing third in their Champions League group.
Seeded teams: Liverpool, Viktoria Plzen, Fenerbahce, Bordeaux, Steaua Bucharest, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, KRC Genk, Rubin Kazan, Lyon, Lazio, Metalist Kharkiv, Hannover 96, Chelsea, Cluj, Olympiacos and Benfica.
Unseeded teams: Anji Makhachkala, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Newcastle United, Stuttgart, Napoli, FC Basel, Inter Milan, AC Sparta Praha, Tottenham Hotspur, Bayer Leverkusen, Levante, Dynamo Kyiv, Zenit St Petersburg, Ajax and BATE Borisov.