By Avenell Dave
Less than four hours until the Champions League draw takes place in Nyon today.
UEFA has changed the format slightly this season so that the top three teams in England automatically qualify for the Group Stages while the fourth placed team has to play in a two-legged play-off.
It has been said that there are no easy games in the Champions League, and by its very definition, that should be the case.
But looking at the five teams we could play, you’ve got to say that one or two look preferable to others.
The team we absolutely must avoid is Fiorentina. They have been consistently impressive in Serie A over the past couple of years and despite falling at the first hurdle in the UCL last season, they have some decent players.
Their coach, Cesare Prandelli, is a master tactician and players such as Adrian Mutu have the ability to do us some damage, regardless of his indifferent spell at Ch*vski.
I can’t help but wonder if the draw will end up with Arsenal playing Celtic, which would ensure high profile for the qualifying stage and more good old fashioned England v Scotland rivalry.
Celtic have been woeful in Europe, particularly away from home, until their win in Moscow on Wednesday night, but as previous encounters have shown us, despite the distinctly average standard of their team (Georgios Samaras was a joke at Man Citeh), they tend to raise their game when they play English sides.
Apart from that, there has been a history of comradeship between Arsenal and Celtic – and players such as Ian Wright, Charlie Nicholas, Liam Brady and Martin Hayes have been involved with both clubs. For that reason alone, I hope we don’t get drawn against them and that they too progress.
We’ve seen how indifferent Athletic Madrid were against us in the Emirates Cup last weekend and although I expect them to raise their game with a few more days pre-season behind them, I’d still fancy our chances.
So that leaves Belgian side Anderlecht and Romanian unknowns Timisoara – both of whom I am sure we could deal with quite easily.
Who would you like to see us face?
We’ll be updating you here later on once the draw has been made – and hopefully planning a trip to Eastern Europe rather than Italy or Scotland...