Arsenal’s inability to beat Aston Villa at the weekend, combined with Man City’s win over Stoke last night, means that Arsenal will in all likelihood finish up in the fourth place in the league. This means the Gunners will have to play a Champions League play-off game either side of the second weekend of the Premier League campaign. The first leg is scheduled for August 16 or 17 with the second leg on August 23 or 24.
So who are Arsenal’s potential opponents then in August? There will be 20 teams in the play-off round but they are split into two sections, champions and non-champions. As non-champions, Arsenal could not face a side that won its domestic title in 2010/11. That means no Battle of Britain match against Rangers.
Arsenal’s section of ten teams would feature:
- The five winners from the non-champion section of the Third Qualifying Round (expected to include Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv, FC Twente and Rubin Kazan)
- The fourth placed team from Spain (Villarreal)
- The fourth placed team from Italy (Udinese or Lazio)
- The third placed team from Germany (Bayern Munich)
- The third placed team from France (one from Marseilles, Lyon, Rennes, Sochaux and PSG)
Once the ten clubs are confirmed, the five with the highest UEFA coefficients are seeded and will be drawn to play one of the five clubs with the lowest UEFA coefficients. Bayern Munich is the only side to have a better coefficient than Arsenal, so the Gunners will not be drawn against Bayern Munich.
As it stands at the moment the top five seeded teams will be Bayern, Arsenal, Benfica and Villarreal. Unless Lyon finish third in France, the final seed would be Dynamo Kyiv.
That means that Arsenal’s potential play-off opponents would be: Udinese or Lazio, Rubin Kazan, FC Twente, a further qualifier from the previous round or one of the French sides (Marseilles, Rennes, Paris Saint-Germain and Sochaux).
Marseille would probably be the one side to avoid here, as would Rubin Kazan because of the travelling. Either of the two Italian teams should not worry Gunners fans too much, nor should FC Twente.