Wednesday 6 August 2014

Arsenal's Champions League worry

A huge hurdle is to be overcome, if Arsenal are to advance to the Champions League group stages. On Friday, we'll know who stands in our way.

It seems the list of potential opponents is more difficult this year than ever (or maybe it's just because I'm a worrier!).

The worst case scenario is we draw Athletic Bilbao, who finished 4th in La Liga. Winger Muniain is their danger man, according to the Daily Mail. If memory serves me correctly, fans can jump on a boat from Portsmouth and get to Bilbao in about 25 hours or more. It's a bit of a long trip, but I'd be more worried about our team having to take on such a consistent Spanish team, which has traditionally included mostly players from the Basque region.

Arguably, just as formidable opponents would be Besiktas. Although they live in the shadow of their more vociferous Istanbul rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, with Denba Ba leading the line they are going to be a tough hurdle to jump. They are also have their highly-rated manager Slaven Bilic at the helm, who knows all about Premier League football thanks to his time in England as a player. Another team to avoid.

Lille, who finished 3rd in La Ligue, should be slightly easier opponents, especially as Wenger knows a fair bit about his native country. However, we will have to watch out for their tasty loanee from Liverpool, Divock Origi (who sounds like a Japanese delicacy to me!).

Talking of Japanese, we could be up against the real thing if we draw Standard Liege of Belgium. Their keeper Elji Kawashima is rated as their star man by the Mail, so they may be tough to break down.

Lastly we have Copenhagen. Perhaps they are the weakest team of the five, but Danes have a nasty habit of proving the pundits wrong. Additionally, former Wolves boss Stale Solbakken will take great pride in using his knowledge of English to bring down Arsenal. Although, he didn't do too well at Wolves, it's always dangerous to write off opponents.

Although on paper, the Danes look the easiest opponents, I think I'd prefer a trip to Lille or Liege. I'd expect a lot of French fans to turn up to back our boys (given the number of our games shown on Canal +) if it's the former, while beating the Belgians should be marginally easier.

Just please don't let it be a trip to Bilbao or Istanbul. Even if we're successful, both trips will take a lot out of us, so the closer to London our opponents are, the better.

Sent from my iPhone

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