Arsenal face Udinese in European playoff

Bayern Munich meet FC Zurich and Arsenal avoid long trip to Russia by drawing Udinese in Champions League playoff round.

    Udinese celebrate qualification to the Champions League after Serie A match with AC Milan [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Arsenal have been handed a tough draw against Serie A team Udinese in the final qualifying round of the Champions League on Friday. 

    Four-time winners Bayern Munich are likely to be more happy with their draw meeting Swiss team FC Zurich.

    Lyon received perhaps the toughest draw, against a match-sharp Rubin Kazan which is midway through the Russian league season.

    Arsenal club secretary David Miles said the Gunners were happy to avoid the long trip to Russia.

    "It would have been difficult. But we won't underestimate (Udinese) at all. The draw gives us the home leg first and hopefully we will take a lead over there," Miles said.

    Villarreal travel to Denmark for the first leg against Champions League newcomer Odense. Twente host two-time winner Benfica in the first leg.

    In a separate 10-team draw for national champions, Copenhagen were drawn against Czech newcomer Viktoria Plzen.

    First-leg matches are played August 16 or 17, and the returns on August 23 or 24.

    Ten playoff winners will join 22 teams with direct entry to the lucrative group stage, which is drawn August 25 in Monaco.

    Arsenal, the 2006 Champions League runner-up, and Udinese have never met in a competitive match.

    The English side has a slight edge with the Premier League scheduled to begin next weekend, whereas Udinese's Serie A campaign starts August. 28.

    "We will make our best effort to prepare our team in the best way," Udinese general manager Franco Collavini said.

    "We respect Arsenal. It's one of the most important clubs in Europe."

             Bayern Munich are fancied to beat Zurich who     started their domestic season poorly [GETTY] 

    Udinese, who were not seeded in the draw, qualified for the Champions League by finishing fourth in Serie A. The club then sold star winger Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona and key midfielder Gokhan Inler to Napoli.

    "We are working to complete our squad by August 31. We're not running to complete our squad for the (Champions League) playoffs,'' Collavini said.

    Bayern Munich received a favourable pairing with Zurich, who lost their first three matches in the Swiss league this season before eliminating Belgium's Standard Liege in the third qualifying round.

    "We have good chances of reaching the group stage," Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said.

    Still, he cautioned that "Swiss football has great value" and noted that Zurich finished only just behind FC Basel last season, saying "that speaks for the quality of the club."

    "We will watch the team closely at the weekend," Heynckes said.

    Twente will find out next week if they can host Benfica in their Grolsch Veste stadium where two men died in a July 7 construction accident as a new stadium roof collapsed.

    "We are involved with the families of the two young boys who tragically died," Twente technical manager Cees Lok said.

    "It was a big traumatic event but slowly the focus went back to football."

    Twente played 90 kilometers (56 miles) away in Arnhem when they won 2-0 in the home leg of a third qualifying round tie against Romania's Vaslui.

    "We're hoping to play in the home stadium against Benfica," Lok said.

    "Every team we play against, we are the underdogs. But I think we are a tough opponent."

    In other pairings of national champions, Wisla Krakow play APOEL, Maccabi Haifa face Genk, Dinamo Zagreb play 1979 runner-up Malmo and BATE Borisov face Sturm Graz.

    Champions League qualifying draw

    Wisla Krakow (Poland) v APOEL (Cyprus)
    Maccabi Haifa (Israel) v Genk (Belgium)
    Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) v Malmo (Sweden)
    FC Copenhagen (Denmark) v Viktoria Plzen (Czech Rep)
    BATE Borisov (Belarus) v Sturm Graz (Austria)
    Odense (Denmark) v Villarreal (Spain)
    Twente (Netherlands) v Benfica (Portugal)
    Arsenal (England) v Udinese (Italy)
    Bayern Munich (Germany) v FC Zurich (Switzerland)
    Olympique Lyon (France) v Rubin Kazan (Russia)

    The playoffs are played over two legs on August 16-17 and August 23-24

    Europa League playoff draw also made on Friday:

    Maccabi Tel Aviv v Panathinaikos
    Atletico Madrid v Vitoria Guimaraes
    Shamrock Rovers v Partizan Belgrade
    Metalist Kharkiv v FC Sochaux
    Besiktas v Alania Vladikavkaz
    Rosenborg v AEK Larnaca
    Vorskla Poltava v Dinamo Bucharest
    Bursaspor v Anderlecht
    AS Roma v Slovan Bratislava
    Olimpiakos Volos v Paris St Germain
    Legia Warsaw v Spartak Moscow
    Ekranas v Hapoel Tel Aviv
    PAOK Salonika v Karpaty Lviv
    Trabzonspor v Athletic Bilbao
    Hearts v Tottenham Hotspur
    Maribor v Rangers
    Steaua Bucharest v CSKA Sofia
    Nordsjaelland v Sporting Lisbon
    Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk v Fulham
    Lokomotiv Moscow v Spartak Trnava
    Sion v Celtic
    Slask Wroclaw v Rapid Bucharest
    Litex Lovech v Dynamo Kiev
    Lazio v Rabotnicki
    Nacional Madeira v Birmingham City
    PSV Eindhoven v Ried
    FC Thun v Stoke City
    Aalesunds v AZ Alkmaar
    Vaslui v Sparta Prague
    Omonia v Salzburg
    Zestafoni v Bruges
    Hanover 96 v Sevilla
    HJK Helsinki v Schalke 04
    Dinamo Tblisi v AEK Athens
    Stade Rennes v Red Star Belgrade
    Gaz Metan Medias v Austria Vienna
    Braga v Young Boys
    Standard Liege v Helsingborgs

    Matches to be played on August 18 and 25.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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