Ajax to face Nice in Champions League qualifiers

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July 15, 2017
AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli (centre), challenges for the ball with Ajax Stefano Denswill (left) and his teammate Davy Klaassen during a Champions League, Group H, match between AC Milan and Ajax at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, December 11, 2013. (AP Photo)

NYON (AP):

Four-time European champion Ajax will play away first at French side Nice in the Champions League third qualifying round.

UEFA drew 15 two-legged pairings yesterday after expressing support for Ajax midfielder Abdelhak Nouri, who was diagnosed with severe brain damage after collapsing due to an irregular heartbeat playing for the Dutch club in a pre-season game last weekend.

"We are will with you," UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti said. "We wish you, your family, and Ajax every strength."

Dynamo Kiev, which hosts the Champions League final next May, drew Swiss team Young Boys and is at home first at the Olympic Stadium.

Champions League debutant Viitorul Costanta, coached by Romania great Gheorghe Hagi, who formed the club eight years ago, will play APOEL or Dudelange.

Also, it was AEK Athens vs CSKA Moscow and Celtic or Linfield vs Dundalk or Rosenborg.

First-leg matches are played on July 25-26, with return matches August 1-2.

Teams must advance through two rounds to join 22 directly qualified teams in the group stage.

Viitorul could be the most intriguing story in the competition if it can join Hagi's former clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona in the elite phase.

The team from Hagi's hometown gives playing opportunities to graduates from the academy he created in his name.

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