Arsenal handed tricky tie against Udinese

NYON - Bayern Munich, whose Allianz Arena will stage this year's Champions League final, breathed a sigh of relief when they were drawn against modest FC Zurich in the final qualifying round on Friday.

Arsenal will face Serie A outfit Udinese, a draw which looks tough on paper but may not be so tricky in reality against a club who have sold their two most important players and will not have played a competitive match beforehand.

Four-times European champions Bayern and Arsenal were spared the long trip to Russia to face Rubin Kazan, a task which fell to France's Olympique Lyon.

Former European champions Benfica must play Twente Enschede and Spain's Villarreal were pitted against Odense of Denmark in the so-called "league" side of the draw, featuring non-champions from Europe's strongest domestic championships.

"That is an achievable and interesting task," Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes told the Bavarian club's website. We have an excellent chance to qualify for the group stage. Avoiding Rubin meant we will not have any complicated travelling to do."

Bayern were plunged into the qualifying stage when they could finish only third in the Bundesliga last season, a performance which cost Louis van Gaal his job as coach.

UNTHINKABLE FAILURE

Failing to qualify for the group stage would be unthinkable for Germany's biggest club, especially in a year when they are hosting the final.

FC Zurich, who beat AC Milan 1-0 away in a group stage match two years ago, beat Standard Liege in the third qualifying round but have made a terrible start to the Swiss League, losing all three games so far.

Udinese general manager Franco Collavini did not appear to hold much hope of preventing Arsenal reaching the group stage for the 15th consecutive season and said his team were concentrating on their Serie A debut on August 28.

"It's a very difficult match against one of the most important clubs in Europe," said Collavini, whose club have sold winger Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona and midfielder Gokhan Inler to Napoli.

"We are working to complete our squad for the end of August. It's important to have the opportunity to play a club like Arsenal."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will not be in the dugout for the first leg after his outburst in their last 16 defeat by Barcelona last season resulted in a one-match ban.

The first legs will be played on August 16/17 with the returns one week later.

Of the sides to won their domestic championships FC Copenhagen, who last year reached the last 16, were drawn against Viktoria Plzen from the Czech Republic while former European Cup runners-up Malmo will play Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb, who last qualified in 1999/00.

Five places are reserved for the champions from lower-ranked nations in the group stage.

Champions League play-off draw made on Friday:

Wisla Krakow (Poland) v APOEL (Cyprus)

Maccabi Haifa (Israel) v Genk (Belgium)

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) v Malmo (Sweden)

FC Copenhagen (Denmark) v Viktoria Plzen (Czech Rep)

BATE Borisov (Belarus) v Sturm Graz (Austria)

Odense (Denmark) v Villarreal (Spain)

Twente (Netherlands) v Benfica (Portugal)

Arsenal (England) v Udinese (Italy)

Bayern Munich (Germany) v FC Zurich (Switzerland)

Olympique Lyon (France) v Rubin Kazan (Russia)

The play-offs are played over two legs on August 16-17 and August 23-24.


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