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It's hardly the group of death for the Gunners

PUBLISHED: 17:08 02 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:25 07 September 2010

11 Apr 1999:  Temuri Ketsbaia of Newcastle United in action against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. Newcastle won 2-0 after extra-time.  \ Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport

11 Apr 1999: Temuri Ketsbaia of Newcastle United in action against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. Newcastle won 2-0 after extra-time. \ Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport

ARSENE Wenger could be forgiven for feeling he has little to smile about this week, but a quick glance at Arsenal s Champions League group should cheer him up no end. Thursday s draw for the group stage pitted the Gunners against two newcomers...

ARSENE Wenger could be forgiven for feeling he has little to smile about this week, but a quick glance at Arsenal's Champions League group should cheer him up no end.

Thursday's draw for the group stage pitted the Gunners against two newcomers to the competition proper - Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar and the winners of the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, Standard Liege - alongside Greek outfit Olympicos.

It's a group that looks just about as easy as the boss and the fans could have wished for, with Arsenal side-stepping potentially much tougher prospects, including Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid.

Of Arsenal's three opponents, only Olympiacos - managed by former Newcastle United striker Temuri Ketsbaia and with ex-Blackburn midfielder Matt Derbyshire in their ranks - have any Champions League pedigree, and will more than likely provide the Gunners with their two hardest games.

Olympiacos are the most successful side in Greek history, and they reached the group stages this year having defeated Moldovan outfit Sheriff Tiraspol in the play-offs.

But while they have enjoyed almost total domestic superiority in recent years, only once in the last 10 seasons have they made it past the group stage.

Arsenal's opening game sees them entertain a Standard Liege side most memorable for pushing Liverpool all the way in last season's Champions League qualifer, where they lost to a single late goal over two legs.

That game, coupled with Liege's subsequent defeat of Everton in the Uefa Cup a few weeks later, saw the Blues take Marouane Fellaini to Goodison Park.

The two sides have clashed only once in European football, when Arsenal triumphed 10-0 on aggregate in the Cup Winners Cup in 1993, when Tony Adams, Paul Merson, Kevin Campbell and Ian Wright were among the scorers.

Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar, under the guidance of Ronald Koeman, won their first Eredivisie title for 28 years in May, having put together a run of 28 matches undefeated.


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