Champions League: Arsenal’s opponents Fenerbahce face European expulsion

Gunners could lose the tie, then be reprieved by CAS

Glenn Moore
Monday 12 August 2013 11:39
Dirk Kuyt joined Fenerbahce from Liverpool last year
Dirk Kuyt joined Fenerbahce from Liverpool last year

The prospect of Arsenal being knocked out of the Champions League then being reinstated arose after they were paired with Fenerbahce in the draw for the competition’s play-off round.

The Turkish club were given a two-year ban by Uefa in June for alleged match-fixing when winning the 2011 Turkish title, but they appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. The sanction was subsequently suspended until the case is heard, with a verdict due by 28 August (the day before the full Champions League draw). Arsenal travel to Istanbul on 21 August, with the home leg at the Emirates six days later. It is not clear what will happen if the CAS upholds Uefa’s ban, but it is possible Arsenal could lose the tie, then be reprieved.

Another possibility is that the CAS comes to a decision within the next fortnight, which could mean Salzburg – whom Fenerbahce beat in the third qualifying round this week – are reprieved. That might be preferable to Arsenal than receiving a bye, since every home match at the Emirates is worth £3m to the club.

If the Fenerbahce tie takes place, Arsenal will be travelling out of Europe as Fenerbahce’s Sukru Saracoglu Stadium is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. It can be an intimidating venue but Arsenal won 5-2 there when the teams met in the Champions League in 2008 before being held to a goalless draw in London.

There is plenty of money in Turkish football these days and Fenerbahce have several players familiar to English audiences. The ex-Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt heads a trio of former Premier League players – the others being Joseph Yobo, previously of Everton, and one-time Newcastle midfielder Emre Belozoglu. They also have the Portuguese pair Raul Meireles and Bruno Alves, Yobo’s Nigerian team-mate Emmanuel Emenike and a clutch of Turkey internationals led by goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.

Celtic face a logistically daunting 6,000-mile round trip to the industrial city of Karagandy to play Kazakhstan champions Shakhter. They should not take their opponents for granted, given that Shakhter knocked out Champions League regulars BATE Borisov in the second qualifying round. Shakhter have also been penalised for match-fixing – by the Kazakh authorities in 2008. In the tie of the play-off round PSV Eindhoven play Milan.

In the draw for the Europa League’s final qualifying round Tottenham were paired with Georgian champions Dynamo Tbilisi, once a great team but now a shadow of their former selves, and Swansea meet Romania’s Petrolul Ploiesti. It will be a reunion for the managers as Petrolul’s Cosmin Contra, played for Swansea’s Michael Laudrup at Getafe.

Laudrup is refusing to set any targets beyond getting to the group stage of the Europa League. He said: “You take it step by step, we have two domestic cup competitions plus the Europa League and the Premier League. We could set a target and say it would be nice to do this or that, but you cannot do that.

“Now we are at the play-offs and, hopefully, we can get to the group stage and have six group games.”

British interest: European draws

Champions League play-offs

Fenerbahce v Arsenal

Shakhter Karagandy v Celtic

Ties to be played 20/21 & 27/28 August

Europa League play-offs

Dynamo Tbilisi v Tottenham Hotspur

Swansea City v Petrolul Ploiesti

Ties to be played 22 & 29 August

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