Wenger hoping for a favourable draw for Arsenal in Champions League play-offs
Gunners boss eager to avoid trip to Turkey or the Ukraine
A ball and the referee’s watch are seen during the Goal Decision System (GDS) presentation at the Emirates Stadium in London yesterday. A text message saying “goal” sent to the referee’s watch will end disputes over whether the ball has crossed the line in the English Premier League this season.
Arsenal will be hoping gruelling trips to Turkey or Ukraine do not lie in wait when the draw for the Champions League play-offs is made in Nyon today.
The Gunners look set to be without any major signings registered in time for Monday’s deadline to feature in the two legs – the first of which will come just a few days after the start of the new English Premier League campaign.
Arsenal – who ended last season with a superb 10-match unbeaten run to secure fourth place ahead of Tottenham – will be among the seeded clubs in the non-champions section, and so cannot face the likes of AC Milan, Schalke or Lyon.
However, the prospect of facing up to Fenerbahce or Ukrainians Metalist Kharkiv – both of whom’s participation in the competition proper could yet be in doubt because of legal disputes – will be one manager Arsene Wenger wants to avoid most, especially if the second leg proves to be away in the same week as they host north London rivals Spurs.
Real Sociedad, who finished fourth in La Liga, boast former Gunner Carlos Vela in their ranks. PSV Eindhoven finished second in the last Dutch championship and would represent a more favourable opposition, as would Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira, who have never qualified for the Champions League.
Arsenal, though, have some pedigree in reaching the group stages via an all-or-nothing tie, as they battled past Udinese two seasons ago and swept aside the Celtic’s challenge ahead of the 2009-2010 campaign.
The Scottish champions confirmed their place in today’s draw in Nyon with a goalless 90 minutes against Elfsborg in Boras. Neil Lennon’s men are within two games of reaching the group stages of European football’s elite club competition for the second successive year, and even if they lose out they will be compete in the Europa League.