Arsenal’s visit to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce highlights the second day of UEFA Champions League play-in matches.
Both clubs are in turmoil, although for very different reasons – so a little success could go a long way to creating some better times for one of the clubs in crisis.
Fenerbahce is playing on appeal to UEFA; the club has already been provisionally expelled from Champions League for a match-fixing case in domestic league play. Two days of court hearings began in Switzerland on Tuesday.
So Arsene Wenger and Arsenal actually have two ways to advance into upcoming group play: by virtue of victory over two legs on the field, of if the Turkish club cannot win its court fight.
Either way, Wenger and his Gunners could use the surge of success. Not only would it help placate some of the supporter unrest over transfer trauma, but there is also this matter of money for UEFA group stage participants, somewhere north of $20 million per team.
(MORE: Wenger defends the club’s transfer record. No, really!)
There is also this streak of 15 consecutive Champions League campaigns, all of those under Wenger. That is behind only Manchester United (about to enter its 18th consecutive group stage) and Real Madrid CF (about to enter its 17th).
Wenger and the Gunners have prevailed in two of these play-in series over the last five seasons, one against Scotland’s Celtic and one against Italys’ Udinese.
And there was good news to report out of the Arsenal camp on Tuesday, as Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere (shown Tuesday at training) and Tomas Rosicky all trained before departure in Istanbul. All had been injury concerns.
The schedule of Wednesday’s Champions League matches; All are 2:45 p.m. kickoffs:
- Dinamo Zagreb vs. Austria Vienna
- Fenerbahce vs. Arsenal (Fox Sports 1)
- Ludogorets Razgrad vs. FC Basel
- Schalke 04 vs. PAOK Salonika (Fox Soccer Channel)
- Steaua Bucuresti vs. Legia Warsaw