British teams learn European competition play-off fates
Arsenal, 20/1 chances with Coral to win the Champions League, have been drawn against Slaven Bilic’s Turkish team Besiktas in the play-off round of the Champions League.
Beiktas finished third in their domestic league, but qualified because Fenerbahce, the champions of Turkey, are excluded from elite European club competitions.
Following the reinstatement of 500/1 outsiders Celtic, after 6-1 aggregate victors Leiga Warsaw fielded an ineligible player, the Scottish champions have been drawn against Slovenian counterparts Maribor. This reprieve will ease the pressure on Bhoys boss Ronny Deila, and may mean he is able to keep hold of star goalie Fraser Forster and highly-rated Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk.
Leiga Warsaw want to appeal the decision made by European governing body UEFA to expel them, but there is a precedent for this involving Celtic. Back in the 2011/12 campaign, Swiss side Sion beat the Bhoys in the Europa League qualifying phase, but fielded ineligible players signed during a transfer embargo.
Elsewhere in the Champions League play-offs, Rafa Benitez’s Napoli (66/1 shots to the lift the trophy) battle Basque Country club Athletic Bilbao (80/1) and Lille (125/1) play Porto (80/1).
Andre Villas-Boas’ Zenit St Petersburg against Standard Liege (both 150/1) and FC Copenhagen against Bayer Leverkusen (100/1) are other stand-out ties from this draw. Elsewhere, Red Bull Salzburg of Austria are paired with Swedish side Malmo, and Danish outfit Aalborg encounter APOEL Nicosia of Cyprus.
Romanian outfit Steaua Bucharest play Bulgarian neighbours Ludogorets Razgrad and Slovan Bratislava against Belarusian team BATE Borisov completes the Champions League fixtures.
In the Europa League play-off draw, 14/1 favourites Tottenham face Cypriot side AEL Limassol, while 80/1 shots Hull are paired with Belgian team Lokeren.
Expelled Leiga Warsaw drop into this competition and will play FK Aktobe of Kazakhstan. Selected other Europa League fixtures include Inter Milan against Icelandic outfit Stjarman, while Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord face respective two-legged ties with Shakhtyor Salihorsk and Zorya Luhansk.