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Liverpool face Wales' TNS in title defence

June 24, 2005 19:30 IST

European champions Liverpool will start their title defence against Total Network Solutions of Wales in the Champions League's first qualifying round next month.

Friday's draws at UEFA's Swiss headquarters also included the second qualifying round, where Liverpool were handed a place against either HB Torshavn of the Faroe Islands or Lithuania's FBK Kaunas if they beat TNS as expected.

The holders were given special clearance by UEFA to enter the competition after failing to secure a place via the Premier League, having finished just outside the top four.

Liverpool, who beat AC Milan on penalties in last month's final after trailing 3-0 at halftime, will play the first leg of their all-British encounter at Anfield on July 12 or 13 and the away leg on July 19 or 20.

Second round games will be played on July 26/27 July and August 2/3.

The first round draw delighted the European champions, who could have been flying to Kazakhstan and instead face a relatively short coach journey across the border to north Wales.

WELSH ROMANCE

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry told reporters: "We're just happy that we don't have to travel too far. I think it's nice the way it's worked out.

"It's a tie with a bit of romance. It will capture the imagination."

Parry said Liverpool were already over the euphoria of their triumph in Istanbul and were looking forward to getting the defence of the club's fifth European crown underway.

"We came back down to earth quite quickly, so we're definitely ready to start again now," he said.

TNS managing director Mike Harris was no less happy, saying: "It's brilliant. My phone is going crazy already.

"There were a number of clubs we fancied in the first round but financially this is obviously the best."

Harris said the home leg would probably be played at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground.

TNS are based in the village of Llansantffraid, which has a population of just over 1,000, and its Treflan ground does not meet UEFA criteria.

Club president Mike Hughes, a former TNS player, said: "There's a lot of Liverpool supporters in the village, including my two sons. So it will be quite an occasion."

Ironically, the draw comes weeks after Harris offered to play Liverpool in a pre-qualifier for the first round -- a proposal which the Welsh Football Association did not support.


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