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

Friday.

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

round.

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.”