Arsenal will face Celtic in a mouthwatering all-British tie later this month to decide who reaches the Champions League group stage.
Scottish side Celtic went into the final qualifying round with a superb 2-0 away win over Dinamo Moscow earlier this week, overturning a 1-0 deficit from the first leg. Arsenal, who reached the semifinals of the Champions League last season where they lost to Manchester United, will be favorites to go through, but according to their former striker Charlie Nicholas, who also played for the Celtic, they will not be relishing the task. “They would have wanted to avoid each other,” he told Sky Sports News. “For Arsenal, the concern is the lack of players they’ve brought in and injuries. I think it will be very tight.” The first leg matches will be played on August 18 and 19, the same week as the start of the English Premier League season, the return matches are on August 25 or 26.
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Euro final: The Clash of the Cash
A total of 10 pairings were drawn with the prize for the winners a place in the lucrative group stages of the world’s most prestigious club competition. The losers will drop down to play in the Europa League, formerly the UEFA Cup. Five of the pairings feature match ups between the champions of lower-rated leagues such as Latvia and Cyprus. European governing body UEFA effectively ring fenced five places in the group stages for these sides by separating them in the draw from teams from stronger leagues such as England, Italy and Spain. It has led to a series of intriguing clashes with Panathinaikos of Greece facing Spanish side Atletico Madrid. Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon take on Fiorentina of Italy, deposed French champions Lyon play Anderlecht of Belgium and Romainian side Timisoara (Romania) face VfB Stuttgart of Germany. Timisoara surprisingly beat Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukraine in the previous qualifying round. Shakhtar won the UEFA Cup last season and will now be able to defend their title under the guise of the revamped Europa League. They were paired against Turkish side Sivasspor when the draw for the competition was also made at UEFA’s headquaters in Nyon on Friday. Full draw: Champions group Sheriff (MDA) v Olympiakos (GRE) Salzburg (AUT) v Maccabi Haifa (ISR) Ventspils (LAT) v FC Zurich (SUI) FC Copenhagen (DEN) v Apoel Nicosia (CYP) Levski Sofia (BUL) v Debrecen (HUN) Non-champions group Lyon (FRA) v Anderlecht (BEL) Celtic (SCO) v Arsenal (ENG) Timisoara (ROM) v VfB Stuttgart (GER) Sporting Lisbon (POR) v Fiorentina (ITA) Panathinaikos (GRE) v Atletico Madrid (ESP)