A Russian side has won the competition twice in the past four seasons. CSKA became the first Russian team to lift a major trophy when they beat Sporting Lisbon 3-1 in the final of the 2004/05 UEFA Cup. At the time, the club's manager Valery Gazzayev said the victory had "relieved Russian soccer of its complexes."
This May, Zenit St. Petersburg lifted the trophy with a 2-0 win over Glasgow Rangers in Manchester in the final, defeating German giants Bayern Munich 4-0 at home in the last four. They then went on to defeat Manchester United 2-1 in the Super Cup, the annual encounter between the holders of the UEFA Cup and the Champions League. Three years on from CSKA's triumph, Russian soccer is now 100% complex free.
The Russians sides are all favorites to progress to the next round. CSKA face minnows NK Slaven Koprivnica, and the Croatian club's captain told UEFA when the draw was made that "Their team are worth nearly as much as our entire league."
Spartak have perhaps the toughest tie - FC Banik Ostrava are somewhat of an unknown quantity, and the Muscovites have a less than perfect record against Czech teams. The game will also be Danish soccer legend Michael Laudrup's first match in charge of Spartak. Laudrup signed a contract with the club earlier this month.
"It doesn't make any difference to me if my first game is a UEFA Cup match or a Russian league game," Laudrup told Sport-Express. "It's more important for me to adapt to my new side and start achieving the necessary results."
FC Moskva were the only Russian side involved in the qualifying round, beating Legia Warsaw to make the first round proper.
The second legs are in two weeks' time.