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Arsenal handed Besiktas test in Champions League draw

| 08.08.2014

Arsenal’s quest to win a first Champions League crown will start in Turkey after Arsene Wenger’s men were paired with Besiktas for the play-off round.

The Gunners, who are looking to reach the group stage of the Champions League for the 17th successive season, will be delighted to have avoided the likes of Athletic Bilbao but a trip to Istanbul is never an easy prospect.

Slaven Bilic’s side cruised past Feyenoord in the previous round with a 5-2 aggregate victory and it was a familiar foe who did the damage for the Black Eagles.

Demba Ba – a man Wenger knows all about after trying to take him to the Emirates on loan in January – fired a hat-trick in his side’s 3-1 win, and Arsenal will have to keep him quiet if they want to continue their group stage record.

While the trip to Turkey is far from ideal for the north London club they do have recent experience playing in Istanbul having defeated Fenerbahce at the same stage of last year’s competition.

The Gunners, who are 20/1 to lif the European Cup,  ran out convincing 3-0 winners at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium before easing to a 2-0 win at the Emirates.

The first leg is set for Istanbul with Wenger’s side 8/11 with Ladbrokes for an away victory. Besiktas are 7/2 to take a first leg advantage to the Emirates with the draw priced at 13/5.

Elsewhere, Celtic, who are 500/1 for Champions League glory, were drawn against NK Maribor after being reinstated following Legia Warsaw’s fielding of an ineligible player.

The Bhoys were walloped 6-1 on aggregate but were handed a reprieve after the Polish side brought on Bartosz Bereszynski for the last four minutes of the second leg clash at Murrayfield.

Celtic are 6/4 favourties for a first leg victory, while Maribor are available at 8/5 for victory with e draw in Solvenia priced at 23/10.

Full UEFA Champions League play-off round draw

Maribor vs Celtic

Red Bull Salzburg vs Malmo

Aalborg vs APOEL

Steaua Bucharest vs Ludogorets

Slovan Bratislava vs BATE

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Standard Liege vs Zenit

FC Copenhagen vs Bayer Leverkusen

Lille vs Porto

Napoli vs Athletic Bilbao

Ties to be played on the 19/20 and 26/27 August.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Oliver Yew