As announced on the clubs official website Arsenal.com, we have been seeded amongst four other teams in the Champions League qualifying round stage, which we will have to progress through to get to the group stage of next season’s European competition.
The draw isn’t till next week, but its already been made known that Arsenal have been seeded alongside Italian side AC Milan, German side Schalke, French side Lyon and Russian side Zenit, who Andrei Arshavin returned to this summer.
All those games could have been very difficult and so I’m glad we cannot face them in the opening round. We have faced AC Milan and Schalke in the last two years and if I remember correctly, out of the four games we won 2 and lost 2, meaning these ties would have been very open. However no matter because we can’t face them and so let’s look at the teams we could possibly come up against in the coming weeks. I’d also just like to point out that Lyon and Zenit are not definitely in the playoff stages, they face other opposition (Grasshoppers Zurich and Nordsjaelland ) first before they can get to this stage, but its highly likely they will be the winners of those respective games and so that’s why I’ve put them in. They are both 1-0 up from the first legs.
In terms of the teams we could face, the draw lines up as follows:
Pacos de Ferreira
Salzburg/Fenerbahce (subject to CAS ruling)
PAOK Salonika/Metalist Kharkiv
PSV Eindhoven/Zulte Waregem
Aside from PSV and Real Sociedad I don’t see any real threat. I believe the CAS ruling is something to do with the club’s rights to partake in a European competition; however I’m not entirely sure. So analysing our possible opponents, they are all practically unknown sides aside from Sociedad, Salzburg, Fenerbahce and PSV. I don’t feel that either Salzburg or Fenerbahce would be a problem and bearing in mind only one of them could get through anyway, whilst PSV and Sociedad would prove to be our main threats but not the most powerful opposition. The Scottish champions Celtic are dark horses after getting to the last 16 last season, but again we would be strong favourites.
I think the one that is most difficult is Spanish side Real Sociedad, which would see the return of Carlos Vela. Sociedad are arguably the best team on there and to get into the champions league places in Spain’s La Liga, you have to be a good side so they will be no push over but I feel that we are very likely to get through the playoff stage no matter the opposition. They have, after all, just sold their best player Illarramendi to Real Madrid.