Arsenal and Celtic to collide
Arsenal have been drawn against Celtic for the right to enter the group stage of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League.
The Scottish giants beat Dinamo Moscow earlier this week to qualify for the play-off round of the competition. The first leg will be held the week after the English and Scottish Premier Leagues begin. It is the first time the two clubs will meet in European competition.
"They would have wanted to avoid each other," said former Celtic and Arsenal forward Charlie Nicholas. "But Celtic fans would be happy because after their last two games they would fancy playing anyone. It was a very good performance in Russia. For Arsenal, the concern is the lack of players they've brought in and injuries. I think it will be very tight."
Former Arsenal captain and Scotland international Frank McLintock believes the Gunners must show no fear in the first leg at Celtic Park. Glasgow-born McLintock supported the Bhoys as a youngster, but would go on to guide Arsenal to their Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final win in 1970, and then help the English club to secure a domestic double the following season.
McLintock, 69, believes Arsenal should put on a strong showing to secure a result to defend back at Emirates Stadium.
He said: "It will be a cracking tie because the Celtic supporters are so noisy and passionate. But if you are going to get anywhere in these types of competitions, we never used to worry about whether we were playing away from home first or not.
"There seems to be a lot of talk about that in modern day football, but I do not know why because it never entered our minds. We just gave our best in every performance, played it tight and tried to attack when we could."
McLintock, though, stressed: "Arsenal will have to be on their toes because Celtic have got a great home record over the years, but it was their away record, until the other day, which was one of the worst in Europe."
The play-offs were divided into two groups, with Lyon's clash against Anderlecht among the "non-champions" ties. Romanian side Timisoara face Stuttgart, Sporting Lisbon and Fiorentina will play each other, while Panathinaikos or Atletico Madrid will make up the other teams that go through.
From the "champions" route, FC Sheriff play Olympiacos, Salzburg are up against Maccabi Haifa, FK Ventspils face FC Zurich, FC Copenhagen and APOEL of Nicosia face each other, with Levski Sofia and Debrecen the final two teams.