Meet Arsenal’s potential Champions League Play-Off opponents
It’s time for the big boys to enter the Champions League with Arsenal, Napoli, Porto and Bayer Leverkusen all waiting to find out who they will face for a place in the group stage.
The Gunners, who are 20/1 for Champions League glory, have plenty of experience at this stage of the competition, beating Fenerbache at the same stage last year but Arsene Wenger will be fully aware of all the potential dangers in the draw with the likes Athletic Bilbao and Besiktas lurking.
Oliver Yew assesses all five of Arsenal’s potential Champions League play-off opponents…
The Spanish side are the highest ranked team not seeded at this stage of the competition and a draw the north London club would probably rather avoid.
Los Leones finished 17 points behind last year’s Champions league winners Real Madrid in fourth spot in La Liga and are by far the most dangerous opposition for the seeded teams.
Bilbao may now be without Ander Herrera after his move to Manchester United but Ernesto Valverde’s side still posses plenty of quality with Aritz Aduriz, who has scored 30 goals in 67 appearances for the club, a dangerman.
A trip to France would hold no fears for the Gunners with Frenchman Wenger likely to be fully aware of what dangers Lille posses.
Divock Origi is back at the club on loan following his £10m move to Liverpool and with Solomon Kalou amongst their ranks the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will have to be fully on their guard.
But Arsenal should have enough quality over two legs to come through any potential clash against the Ligue 1 side.
Another draw the Gunners would in all honesty rather avoid with a tricky trip to Istanbul not high on Wenger’s agenda.
Besiktas stormed past Feyenoord in the last round thanks to a hat-trick by former Chelsea striker Demba Ba and he will be determined to show English football what it is missing if he lines up against Arsenal.
And with the Black and Whites unbeaten in 16 matches in all competitions at the Vodafone Arena this tie really is a potential banana skin for the top seeded clubs.
The Belgian side put in an impressive performance to overcome Panathinaikos in the previous round and with summer additions like former Celtic star Tony Watt, who famously scored the winner at Celtic Park against Barcelona in 2012, they will be looking to surprise the seeded teams.
But Arsenal will have fond memories of facing the Reds after beating them both home and away in the 2009 edition of the competition.
Wenger will be hoping for a repeat performance should the clubs be paired together in the play-off round.
A trip to Copenhagen will bring back plenty of memories for Arsenal fans after the club’s European Cup Winners’ Cup success back in 1994.
But a potential pairing with the Danish outfit is dangerous for Wenger’s men with the likes of Juventus and Galatasaray both failing to pick up a victory at Telia Parken.
Away from home though it’s a different story as FCK have failed to record a victory in their last five on the road in the Champions League and the Gunners would be confident of taking advantage at the Emirates.
Former Cardiff striker Andreas Cornelius is a name to watch out for should the clubs be drawn together.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £100 in free bets.