This was not the draw Arsenal would have been hoping for.
Arsene Wenger’s men were dealt the toughest draw possible, as they will play a home and away series against Turkish giants Fenerbache to try and seal a spot in the UEFA Champions League group stages.
Arsenal were seeded for the draw and could’ve faced PSV Eindhoven, Metalist Kharkiv, Real Sociedad or Paços de Ferreira instead. Safe to say, they drew the short straw.
Of course, Arsenal will be the favorites for the tie to be played on August 20/21 and August 27/28, but you can’t underestimate how huge this play-off round is. Making the UCL group stages generates roughly $45-50 million for each club. That financial windfall could fund the deal to bring Luis Suárez to the Emirates… oh yeah, about that.
Well, Suárez wants a move to Arsenal to play Champions League soccer but he may want to wait until Arsenal negotiate this tricky task at the end of August. Only then will he possibly sign on for the Gunners. So this draw has thrown a few spanners in the works for Arsenal.
And here’s another one. Their opponents Fenerbache were found guilty of match-fixing and banned form European soccer competitions for two years. But they appealed the ban and were reinstated until a decision is made by the European Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)… that hearing is set to come on August 28… which means Fenerbache could be knocked out of the competition or may have reached the UCL group stages by that time. What a mess.
If Arsenal lose and Fenerbache’s appeal is rejected, do Arsenal go through to the group stages regardless? Let me dig through the rule book and get back to you on this one. UEFA said this on the matter: “the participation of Fenerbahçe SK in the competition is subject to pending disciplinary and CAS proceedings.”
Elsewhere, the rest of the Champions League play-off draw went relatively smoothly and some intriguing ties will take place to see who’ll join Europe’s elite club competition this season.
The UK’s other entrant at this stage, Glasgow Celtic, face a trip to Kazakhstan to play Shakhter Karaganda. While PSV Eindhoven square off with Italian giants AC Milan. La Liga outfit Real Sociedad face French powerhouses Lyon and plenty of other top games will play out in the final round of qualifying.
Here’s the draw in full: Dinamo Zagreb v FK Austria Vienna, Ludogorets v Basle, Plzen v Maribor, Shakhter Karaganda v Celtic, Steaua Bucuresti v Legia Warsaw, Lyon v Real Sociedad, Schalke 04 v FC Metalist Kharkiv, Pacos Ferreira v Zenit St Petersburg, PSV v AC Milan, Fenerbahce v Arsenal