Who can Arsenal meet in Champions League qualifier?
ARSENAL will find out who is blocking their path to the Champions League group stages when the draw for the play-off round is made in Switzerland on Friday morning. The Gunners know they could face a far trickier tie than in previous years as Uefa have ma
ARSENAL will find out who is blocking their path to the Champions League group stages when the draw for the play-off round is made in Switzerland on Friday morning.
The Gunners know they could face a far trickier tie than in previous years as Uefa have made a number of changes to the format of the draw.
In the past three years Arsenal have played Dinamo Zagreb (2006), Sparta Prague (2007) and Holland's FC Twente (2008), but a number of tougher sides could stand in their way this year.
Those include weekend visitors to the Emirates, Atletico Madrid, as well as Fiorentina and Vfb Stuttgart.
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With 22 teams already directly qualified for the group stage, a further 10 will come from the qualifying process, which started back in late June and reaches its conclusion with the new play-off round which includes Arsenal.
This is superseding the third qualifying round of previous years, the major difference being that there are five places available through a 'champions path' and five through a 'non-champions' path.
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Arsenal, having come fourth last season, are in the latter, along with the other teams from bigger European nations, whose top one, two or three sides qualify directly for the group stages, as they do in England.
Four other teams went straight into Arsenal's section of the draw - Lyon, Vfb Stuttgart, Atletico Madrid and Fiorentina. Five more teams will join them after this week's third qualifying round is concluded.
Anderlecht, 6-3 aggregate winners over Sivasspor of Turkey, are through as are Panathinaikos who beat Sparta Prague 4-3 on aggregate on Tuesday and Sporting Lisbon, who overcame Steve McClaren's FC Twente on away goals after a 1-1 draw in Holland.
Once the 10 teams are known after last night's second leg games, the five with the highest Uefa ranking or 'coefficient' will be seeded and play one of the other five. Arsenal, Lyon, Sporting Lisbon and Panathinaikos make up four of the five seeded teams, with Shakhtar Donetsk likely to be the fifth side if they came through last night. If Donetsk are out, Stuttgart will be the fifth seeded side and cannot face Arsenal.
That does not leave too many potential opponents for Arsenal. A trip to any of Stuttgart, Madrid or Florence would not be easy, and neither would a long journey to Moscow to take on Dinamo, if the Russians maintain their 1-0 first leg lead over Celtic.
The least challenging tie would appear to be Anderlecht, who came second in Belgium last season.
Meanwhile a meeting with FC Timisoara, a Romanian club who surprised Uefa Cup holders Shakhtar by drawing 2-2 in their first leg, would please the romantics.
THE play-off round draw will take place on Friday at 12.30pm. First legs to be played on August 18/19, second legs on August 25/26.