Arsenal’s quest to win a first Champions League crown will start in Turkey after Arsene Wenger’s men were paired with Besiktas for the play-off round.
The Gunners, who are looking to reach the group stage of the Champions League for the 17th successive season, will be delighted to have avoided the likes of Athletic Bilbao but a trip to Istanbul is never an easy prospect.
Slaven Bilic’s side cruised past Feyenoord in the previous round with a 5-2 aggregate victory and it was a familiar foe who did the damage for the Black Eagles.
Demba Ba – a man Wenger knows all about after trying to take him to the Emirates on loan in January – fired a hat-trick in his side’s 3-1 win, and Arsenal will have to keep him quiet if they want to continue their group stage record.
While the trip to Turkey is far from ideal for the north London club they do have recent experience playing in Istanbul having defeated Fenerbahce at the same stage of last year’s competition.
The Gunners, who are 20/1 to lif the European Cup, ran out convincing 3-0 winners at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium before easing to a 2-0 win at the Emirates.
Elsewhere, Celtic, who are 500/1 for Champions League glory, were drawn against NK Maribor after being reinstated following Legia Warsaw’s fielding of an ineligible player.
The Bhoys were walloped 6-1 on aggregate but were handed a reprieve after the Polish side brought on Bartosz Bereszynski for the last four minutes of the second leg clash at Murrayfield.
Full UEFA Champions League play-off round draw
Maribor vs Celtic
Red Bull Salzburg vs Malmo
Aalborg vs APOEL
Steaua Bucharest vs Ludogorets
Slovan Bratislava vs BATE
Besiktas vs Arsenal
Standard Liege vs Zenit
FC Copenhagen vs Bayer Leverkusen
Lille vs Porto
Napoli vs Athletic Bilbao
Ties to be played on the 19/20 and 26/27 August.
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