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Martin O'Neill on Rapid Vienna draw

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Martin O'Neill on Rapid Vienna draw

By Paul Brown

Martin O'Neill admitted he had a feeling ahead of today's draw that Rapid Vienna would prove to be the opposition again after Villa were drawn for the second successive season against the Austrian side in the Europa League play-off.

Villa will face the formidable challenge of a first leg at the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium on August 19 before playing the return leg on August 26 at Villa Park.

If Villa can get through the play-off stage, they will go into a group stage.

It's more of the same for Villa as they face the Green-Whites in the Europa League play-off stage again, having gone down to Peter Pacult's side last season.

"We kind of had the feeling beforehand that we would probably find ourselves drawn against Rapid Vienna again. As proved to be the case last year, this will be a difficult assignment against difficult opposition." he said.

"But we are looking forward to the game and, of course, we will try to do our best to qualify for the group stage. This won't be easy as Rapid was as tough a draw as we could have encountered but we'll be ready to go."

Rapid are a club with a rich history. As well as winning the Austrian title 32 times and the domestic cup on 14 occasions, Rapid won the German league championship in 1941 as well as the cup three years earlier.

Ironically, manager Pacult made his debut for Austria in October 1982 against Martin O'Neill's Northern Ireland.

He had an impressive career goal ratio during his playing days, netting 206 times in 448 appearances.

Pacult served Rapid as a player and also represented 1860 Munich and Austria Vienna.

His managerial career has taken him to 1860 Munich, FC Karnten, Dynamo Dresden and then on to his current job with Rapid, where he has been since 2006.

Despite the away goals defeat last season, following a 2-2 two-leg draw, meetings between Villa and Rapid have been favourable to the claret and blues.

When the sides met at Villa Park in November 1959, Villa won 2-1 and six months later they went on to become Second Division champions.

A similar sequence of events occurred in 1981 - with Ron Saunders' side thrashing the Austrians 4-0 at Villa Park. Three and a half months later they were crowned champions of England for the first time in 71 years.

The Green-Whites, who play at the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium finished third in their domestic league last term.

They made it through to the play-off stage by beating Beroe 4-1 on aggregate in third round qualifying.

The 48 clubs who make it through to the play-off phase will then be drawn into 12 groups of four.

The group winners and runners-up will advance to the round of 32, where they will be joined by the eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage.

They will then battle it out - over two legs for each round up until the final - to see who can make it through to the Europa League showpiece, held at Aviva Stadium, which opened in May 2010 at the former site of Lansdowne Road in Dublin, Republic of Ireland.

Interestingly, due to UEFA rules against corporate sponsorship outside the federation, for the final the stadium will be referred to as the Dublin Arena.

Atlético Madrid are the defending champions, having beaten Fulham in last season's final at Hamburg's HSH Nordbank Arena.

AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 8th August 2010
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