Arsenal’s fourth place finish last season means it would have to play in the Champions league play off round before it gets to the group stages proper. In previous years the Gunners have had a easy ride in the play offs where they have played Dinamo Zagreb, Sparta Prague, FC Twente and Celtic before the ante was increased where they would now have to play some of Europe’s big guns before getting to the play offs. In recent years, Arsenal have been paired with Udinese and Fernerbache. Since 2006, Arsenal have won all of it 12 play offs matches both home and away matches, scoring 29 matches and conceding just three, with nine clean sheets in those games.
As the draws for this seasons play offs draws near, the article takes a look at Arsenal’s possible opponent.
1. FC Copenhagen: The champions of Denmark two seasons ago, they finished second last season in the Danish league, a position that earned them a place in the play off. They were grouped with Real Madrid, Juventus, and Galatasaray last season in the Champions league. Lost all their away matches, and got four points from their matches against Juventus and Galatasaray, with a win against the latter. Arsenal should be able to navigate this fixture successfully if they are paired against them.
2. Lille OSC: The Former French Ligue 1 champions finished a creditable third last season. And they were at some point involved in a title challenge with PSG and Monaco last season, the team coached by Rene Girard, the man that led Montpellier to their first title three seasons, builds his team on a solid defence. With the likes of Vincent Enyeama who had a league high 21 clean sheet last season and Derrick Origi, they could be a sturdy opponent.
3. Standard Liege: the ten times Belgian champions finished 2nd last season. They remain one of the dominant forces in Belgian football, but do not possess the same pedigree as the teams of past as most top Belgian talents ply their trade outside of Belgium. Arsenal should be able to handle them.
4. Athletic Bilbao: They were going to be seeded assuming Zenith St Petersburg failed to win it 3td round match against AEL Limassol, a triumph for the Grazprom club means Bilbao could face Arsenal. The Basque club finished fourth in la liga last season. And they have been a force in the Europa league in recent seasons, reaching the finals in 2012 where they lost to Atletico Madrid. Iker Muniain is one of it key players. It should be a stern test for Arsenal if they are paired with Bilbao.
5. Besiktas: Another Turkish club was at the receiving end of Arsenal’s win last season in the play offs when they defeated Fernerbache five nil on aggregate. The Istanbul club finished third last season in the Turkish league. Arsenal’s record against teams from Turkey looks good; a tie against Besiktas should be negotiable.
The draws for the play offs comes up on Friday, August 8th in Nyon, UEFA headquarters