Champions League draw: God's a Gooner

Evidence, if any were needed, that God is indeed a Gooner came tonight in Monaco when Arsene Wenger’s side were handed a dream Champions League draw.

The Gunners will face AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos and Standard Liege in Group H of the Champions League and must be very confident of proceeding. No, make that super confident. Look, we’re through, okay!

None of the three opponents can be considered as big players on the European stage and Wenger will allow himself a wry smile as he ponders the sides we face.


 The Dutch outfit are managed by Ronald Koeman and boast a tidy new stadium an hour or so by train from Amsterdam. I went there for a pre-season friendly three years ago and it is tight ground with a good atmosphere and the club has very passionate fans. Ultimately, though, we must surely beat them home and away.

Olympiakos, from Athens, are managed by former Newcastle star Temuri Ketsbaia and again the Gunners will feel they should prevail. Olympiakos sealed their passage to the Champions League group stage  with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Sheriff Tiraspol.
We played Belgians Liege years ago in the Cup Winners Cup and thrashed them 10-1 over two legs if I remember correctly. In Belgium we won 7-0 and and hey, even Eddie McGoldrick scored in the away leg.
The group stage draw has just taken place and Wenger, his players and Gunners fans will be thrilled with the prospect of getting back into Euro action after dispatching Celtic 5-1 in the Play-off clash over two legs. The fixtures are being organised now and the Gunners first slice of action comes on either September 15 or 16.

The 32 clubs who were featured in the draw were split into four pots of eight based on their Uefa co-efficient scores. These were based on performance in European competitions over the last five years. With all the little balls to handle Uefa chiefs wanted someone with safe hands to do the draw itself but instead selected a big-nosed chap remarkably similar to Edwin van der Sar to do it.
Arsenal were ranked as one of the top seeds which meant they couldn’t face AC Milan, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United or Sevilla. Organisers confirmed that they had never even heard of a little-known outfit known as Tottenham Hotspur!

Wolfsburg, Rubin Kazan, AZ Alkmaar, Standard Liege, Unirea Urziceni, Debrecen, APOEL Nicosia and FC Zurich will make their Champions League debut in this year’s tournament.
The eight group winners plus the runners-up go through to the knockout stages of the competition, while the teams finishing third go into the Europa League.
Real Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium will stage the Champions League final on Saturday, 22 May 2010.
The full draw for the Champions League group stage is as follows:
Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux, Maccabi Haifa
Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg
Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich
Group D: Chelsea, FC Porto, Atletico Madrid, APOEL
Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debrecen
Group F: FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, Dinamo Kiev, FC Rubin Kazan
Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, Stuttgart, Unirea
Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard

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