August 4, 2017 / 11:47 AM / 16 days ago

Napoli land Balotelli's Nice in playoff round

ZURICH (Reuters) - Napoli will have to overcome French side Nice if they are to end Italy's dismal record in the Champions League playoff round following the draw made by UEFA on Friday.

Serie A teams have been beaten in the playoff round for the last three seasons and six times in the last eight with Napoli among the victims in 2014 when they lost to Athletic Bilbao.

Napoli, which finished third in Serie A last season and reached the round of 16 in the Champions League, will play the first leg at home.

Nice, whose attack is spearheaded by maverick Italian striker Mario Balotelli, have never reached the group stage although they qualified for the old European Cup in 1956 and 1959.

English Premier League side Liverpool were also handed a tough draw against Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim, another team aiming to reach the lucrative group stage for the first time. The Germans will be at home in the first leg.

Sevilla face Istanbul Basaksehir while CSKA Moscow meet Swiss side Young Boys and Portugal's Sporting take on FCSB, which were formerly known as Steaua Bucharest and won the old European Cup in 1986.

Scottish champions Celtic, also former European champions, will have to make the long journey to Kazakhstan for the return leg of their tie after a draw against FC Astana.

Qarabag, bidding to become the first Azeri side to reach the group stage, meet FC Copenhagen while Greek side Olympiakos host Rijeka, surprise champions of Croatia last season.

The winners of the 10 ties will join 22 teams that have qualified directly for the group stage which will be played between September and December.

Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Susan Thomas

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