Nyon: Arsenal face Turkish side Besiktas while reprieved Celtic meet Slovenian title-holders Maribor in the Champions League play-offs.
There was drama minutes before yesterday’s draw in Nyon when Polish club Legia Warsaw, who had dished out a 6-1 third qualifying mauling to Celtic, were ruled out. Legia were demoted to the Europa League play-offs for fielding an ineligible player — Bartosz Bereszynski. Last season Celtic failed to make it out of the group stage. Arsenal must over overcome Besiktas to seal their 17th consecutive appearance in the Champions League group stages.
Last season the Gunners saw off another Turkish club, Fenerbahce, to go on to make it into the Last 16 where Arsene Wenger’s 2006 finalists came a cropper against Bayern Munich.
This is the north London giant’s first meeting with the Istanbul club. Other match-ups include Lille against 2004 European champions FC Porto, Napoli facing Athletic Bilbao, Bayer Leverkusen playing FC Copenhagen, and the Andre Villas-Boas-coached Zenit St Petersburg meeting Standard Liege.
The first leg ties are scheduled for August 19/20, with the second leg matches on August 26/27. The ten winners will join the 22 teams automatically qualified for the group stage, which gets underway in September.
Maribor vs Celtic, Salzburg vs Malmo, Aalborg vs Apoel Nicosia, Steaua Bucharest vs Ludogorets, Slovan Bratislava vs BATE Borisov, Besiktas vs Arsenal, Standard Liege vs Zenit St Petersburg, Copenhagen vs Bayer Leverkusen, Lille vs Porto, Napoli vs Athletic Bilbao