Tough Italian job for Gunners

The Gunners finished fourth in the Premier League last term, with

Manchester City pipping them to the third automatic qualifying

spot. Arsene Wenger’s troops were seeded for Friday’s draw in Nyon,

and will face a two-legged fixture over August 16/17 and 23/24,

which is sandwiched between some tough Premier League games against

Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester United. Even though Arsenal

were one of the seeds, there was no fixture weighting, meaning the

Gunners will play the first leg at Emirates Stadium. Wenger,

though, must serve a one-match touchline ban following UEFA

disciplinary action in the wake of last season’s second-round exit

to Barcelona in the Nou Camp, after being charged with

“inappropriate language” directed towards referee official Massimo

Busacca. The Swiss official had controversially shown Robin van

Persie a second yellow card for shooting at goal just one second

after he had blown the whistle for offside – the Dutch striker

claimed he had not heard it due to the noise of the 95,000-plus

crowd. The 10-men of Arsenal, who had beaten Barcelona in the first

leg, went on to lose 3-1 to crash out of Europe. Midfielder Samir

Nasri was also sanctioned by UEFA for his outburst at Busacca, and

will not be available, nor will van Persie, whose suspension was

carried over into Arsenal’s next European tie. Four-time European

champions Bayern Munich were drawn against Swiss league runners-up

FC Zurich, with the German outfit at home in the first leg. “Swiss

football has come a long way recently, and we’ll have to be very

cautious. But I think it’s a manageable draw, and we have a very

good chance of making it into the group phase,” Bayern head coach

Jupp Heynckes told “It’s good we don’t have far to travel

at this early stage of the season. We’d expect to have sufficient

class to make it to the next round.” French giants Lyon, who

reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2009-10, face a tough

assignment against Russian outfit Rubin Kazan, while Dutch side FC

Twente have equally testing tie against Portugal’s Benfica. Spanish

outfit Villarreal are away to Denmark’s Odense in their first-leg

encounter, while Danish champions FC Copenhagen face Viktoria

Plzen, who won the Czech league title for the first time in their

history last season. Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb face Swedish

counterparts Malmo while Belarusian champions BATE Borisov meet

Austrian title winners Sturm Graz. The champions of Poland and

Cyprus do battle as Wisla Krakow take on APOEL, while Israeli title

winners Maccabi Haifa meet Belgian champions Genk.

Champions League play-off round: Wisla Krakow v Apoel FC Maccabi

Haifa v Genk Dinamo Zagreb v Malmo FC Copenhagen v Viktoria Plzen

BATE Borisov v Sturm Graz Odense v Villarreal FC Twente v Benfica

ARSENAL v Udinese Bayern Munich v FC Zurich Lyon v Rubin Kazan