Arsenal to face Udinese in Champs League playoff
Arsenal will play Udinese in the Champions League playoff round,
and four-time winner Bayern Munich was drawn against FC Zurich on
Lyon also faces a tough hurdle to reach the lucrative group
stage, drawing a Rubin Kazan team that is midway through the
Russian league season.
Arsenal club secretary David Miles said the Gunners were happy
to avoid the long trip to Russia.
”It would have been difficult. But we won’t underestimate
(Udinese) at all. The draw gives us the home leg first and
hopefully we will take a lead over there,” Miles said.
Villarreal will travel to Denmark for the first leg against
Champions League newcomer Odense. Twente will host two-time winner
Benfica in the first leg.
In a separate 10-team draw for national champions, Copenhagen
was drawn against Czech newcomer Viktoria Plzen.
First-leg matches are Aug. 16 or 17, and the returns on Aug. 23
or 24. Ten playoff winners will join 22 teams with direct entry to
the lucrative group stage, which is drawn Aug. 25 in Monaco.
Arsenal, the 2006 Champions League runner-up, and Udinese have
never met in a competitive match.
The English team has a slight edge with the Premier League
scheduled to begin next weekend, whereas Udinese’s Serie A campaign
starts Aug. 28.
”We respect Arsenal,” Udinese general manager Franco Collavini
said. ”It’s one of the most important clubs in Europe.”
Udinese, which was not seeded in the draw, qualified for the
Champions League by finishing fourth in Serie A. The club then sold
star winger Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona and key midfielder Gokhan
Inler to Napoli.
Bayern Munich received a favorable pairing with Zurich, which
lost its first three matches in the Swiss league this season before
eliminating Belgium’s Standard Liege in the third qualifying
Twente will find out next week if it can host Benfica in its
Grolsch Veste stadium where two men died in a July 7 construction
accident when a new roof collapsed.
In other pairings of national champions, Wisla Krakow plays
APOEL, Maccabi Haifa faces Genk, Dinamo Zagreb plays 1979 runner-up
Malmo and BATE Borisov faces Sturm Graz.
Before the draw, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino warned
clubs of its zero tolerance approach to game-fixing.
About a dozen of UEFA’s 53 member nations are investigating
corruption scandals, including Turkey where champion Fenerbahce is
accused of fixing matches to win the title last season and gain
direct entry to the Champions League group stage.
”UEFA is workig very hard behind the scenes to ride the game of
these threats,” Infantino said. ”We will not hesitate to
prosecute any individual, any official or any club.”