Arsenal’s Champions League hopes in jeopardy as tough draw looms
Luis Suarez’ eyes will be glued to a television screen somewhere in Liverpool’s training ground for the Champions League play-off draw, eager to see who Arsenal pull out of the hat to battle for a place in the group stage of the competition.
Whoever awaits the Gunners, it doesn’t look as though they’ll have an easy ride and Ladbrokes have priced up odds for punters to take a guess on who it is they’ll be facing in this crucial knockout clash.
The north Londoners will be facing any one of PSV, Metalist Kharkiv, Fenerbahce, Real Sociedad or Pacos Ferreira in this decisive qualifier and all have been attributed identical odds of 7/2 to be paired with Arsenal.
Any of the sides are sure to give Arsene Wenger’s men plenty of headaches, but history suggests Dutch outfit PSV are the ones they’ll desperately want to avoid.
They’ve taken on Eindhoven’s finest in one Champions League knockout tie prior to their potential showdown this season, losing 2-1 on aggregate thanks to former Chelsea defender Alex’s late equaliser in the second leg at the Emirates.
These two meetings accounted for four of the matches in which the Gunners have failed to win from their six meetings with PSV, only winning one game comfortably back in the days when winning trophies was customary.
Any side can struggle with a trip to Turkey, so it’s fair to say that Arsenal won’t relish a trip to Istanbul, especially with a squad containing former foes – albeit for different reasons – Dirk Kuyt, Raul Meireles and Emmanuel Eboue.
After finishing fourth in La Liga last term, Real Sociedad’s quality is apparent, even without star-man Asier Illaramendi. They beat Valencia and Barcelona and bagged three against Real Madrid in a draw at the San Sebastian; Arsenal would do well to avoid these opponents.
Pacos Ferreira are arguably the most desirable of the five, but they come associated with all the dangers of the archetypal unknown quantity, whilst Metalist Kharkiv have picked up 10 points from 12 in the Ukranian top flight.
Facing a team that’s well into a competitive stride at this stage of the season represents arguably the biggest danger to Arsenal’s Champions League aspirations so this is the punt for all of the worst case scenario mongers to lump on.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date