Cyprus Mail

Arsenal handed tricky Fenerbahce test

Arsenal have been drawn to face Turkish club Fenerbahce in the Champions League play-offs.
Fenerbahce are awaiting a final ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over whether they will be allowed to go into the competition proper this season, having been banned from competing in Europe by UEFA for match-fixing in domestic competition.
They have challenged that ruling and a CAS verdict is due before the group stage draw is made, but home and away matches against Arsenal stand to go ahead before that decision arrives.
UEFA yesterday said no decision has yet been made regarding what would happen in the event of Fenerbahce winning the tie and losing their CAS appeal.
Fenerbahce finished second in the Turkish Super Lig last season, while Arsenal took fourth place in the Barclays Premier League.
Celtic meanwhile have been drawn against Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan in what appears a favourable draw, travel notwithstanding, for Neil Lennon’s team as they bid to reach the group stages.
Celtic came through 1-0 on aggregate against Elfsborg in the third qualifying round, winning at Parkhead and then holding on for a hard-earned goalless draw in Sweden on Wednesday night.
The Scottish champions made it through to the last 16 last season, beating Barcelona at home in the group stages to advance along with the Spanish giants before bowing out to Juventus.
It proved a lucrative run for the Glasgow club, who will now face a team who have no European pedigree, aiming to reach a main-draw stage for the first time. Celtic, by contrast, won the old European Cup in 1967.
Shakhter landed the Kazakh league title in 2012 but their form in 2013 has been shaky. They ended the regular season in third place, behind Aktobe and Astana, and are heading into the championship round of the domestic campaign.
Arsenal’s task against Fenerbahce looks more daunting than the challenge facing Celtic.
Fenerbahce have former Premier League players Raul Meireles, Joseph Yobo and Dirk Kuyt in their ranks.
The ties are to be played on August 20-21 and August 27, with Celtic and Arsenal both away from home, facing long trips, for the first legs.
Elsewhere in the draw, seven-time European champions AC Milan landed a tough tie against former winners PSV Eindhoven, while Schalke face Metalist Kharkiv, who face a UEFA disciplinary hearing next week.
French side Olympique Lyonnais were given a tricky tie against Spain’s Real Sociedad.
Milan, who finished third in Serie A last season, were given the tie they probably dreaded most.
Massimiliano Allegri’s team will not have played a competitive fixture before they visit the Netherlands for the first leg.
They could also be without forward Mario Balotelli, who limped out of a pre-season friendly against Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday with a thigh muscle problem.

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