Champions League Draw Offers New Battle of Britain
The draw for the Champions League qualifying round usually pits perennial fourth place team Arsenal against a lowly Eastern European team who the Gunners comfortably see off with the aid of their youth team.
However this season, they have been drawn against Scottish league runners-up Celtic for a place in the group stages of the Champions League.
Normally this match is used as a two legged kick-about by Arsenal where the result is merely a formability before they join the big boys of Europe in the group stage, however a match-up against an old foe from north of the border will certainly add spice to what can sometimes be a tame affair and recalls in my mind the Battle of Britain in 1992.
So there are a few differences between the two games. The match in ‘92 was contested by English league champions Leeds United (how they have fallen) and Scottish league champions Rangers, in a qualifying match for the group stage of the competition, which in those days consisted of two groups of four.
Not just the also rans of each of their domestic leagues’ these teams were the champions and if you’re unfamiliar with the result, you’ll have to believe when I say that Rangers destroyed Leeds and marched comfortably into the next round. Whether an equivalent result from an equivalent match is possible today is highly debatable.
Scottish football certainly doesn’t have the same reputation as it once did, with far fewer English players making the switch north of the border, however good European runs have been achieved with Rangers being beaten finalists in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup Final, but they were also knocked out of the Champions League at the qualifying stage last season by FB Kaunus of Lithuania.
Celtic have equally flattered to deceive by reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League in 2007/08, but last season remained rooted to the bottom of their group.
Possibly bhoyed (no pun intended) by their recent impressive win over Dinamo Moscow in a Champions League qualifying round, Celtic will carry a certain amount of confidence into the game, although to beat an Arsenal side that cruised past local rivals Rangers 3-0 in a pre-season tournament earlier this month will be an even greater achievement, possibly even greater than the one shown below.
Full Champions League play-off draw
FC Sheriff v Olympiakos
SV Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Haifa
FK Ventspils v FC Zurich
FC Copenhagen v Apoel Nicosia
Levski Sofia v Debrecen
Lyon v Anderlecht
Celtic v Arsenal
FC Timisoara v VfB Stuttgart
Sporting v Fiorentina
Panathinaikos v Atletico Madrid
(The first legs are to played 18/19 August while the second legs will take place on 25/56 August)
Also, in the second tier of European football, in the play-offs for the newly re-branded Europa League, Everton will play Sigma Olomouc from Czech Republic who destroyed Aberdeen 8-1 on aggregate in the previous round, Aston Villa play Rapid Vienna, Fulham meet FC Amkar Perm of Russia and Hearts face Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb.Tags: Arsenal, Celtic
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