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Arsenal, Port head UCL playoff draw

07 August 2014, 17:30

Geneva — Arsenal and Porto are among the big clubs entering the Champions League qualifying campaign when the draw for the last-round playoffs is held Friday.

Arsenal, chasing a 17th straight group-stage campaign, and two-time European champion Porto are the highest-ranked teams in the 20-team draw.

They are seeded with Zenit St. Petersburg, 2002 runner-up Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli in the section for teams which are not national champions.

Their unseeded opponents are Athletic Bilbao, Lille, Copenhagen, Standard Liege and Besiktas. The Turkish club advanced from the third qualifying round Wednesday with a hat trick from former Chelsea forward Demba Ba to beat Feyenoord 3-1 and complete a 5-2 aggregate win.

"He is not 100 percent but fit to play," Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic said of his new signing.

Also read: UEFA hands out racism sanctions

Clubs from the top five leagues in UEFA's rankings — Spain, England, Germany, Italy and Portugal — join in the fourth and final qualifying round, with two-leg matches scheduled for Aug. 19-20 and Aug. 26-27.

In the champions section, 1986 European Cup winner Steaua Bucharest is seeded with Salzburg, APOEL, BATE Borisov and Ludogorets Razgrad.

Potential opponents are Maribor, Legia Warsaw, Slovan Bratislava, 1979 runner-up Malmo and Aalborg.

Playoff winners join the 22 clubs directly qualified for the group stage. The eight four-team groups are drawn Aug. 28 in Monaco.

The 10 playoff losers enter the second-tier Europa League group stage, drawn Aug. 29.

Though each playoff team gets 2.1 million euros ($2.8 million) form UEFA, the real prize — in status and cash — comes in the six-match Champions League group stage which kicks off in September.

UEFA pays a basic 8.6 million euros ($11.5 million) fee for reaching group stage, plus 1 million euros ($1.34 million) per win and 500,000 euros ($670,000) per draw.

Also read: UEFA charge Simeone, Alonso

Teams also get a share of television rights money in a near 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) payout shared by the 32 group teams.

Arsenal's streak of claiming a share of that bonanza started in the 1998-99 season.

Zenit was fined 6 million euros ($8 million) of its prize money last season by UEFA for breaching Financial Fair Play rules, and is restricted to registering only 22 senior players in this year's competition instead of the usual 25-man squad.

Led by former Porto and Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas, Zenit got two late goals Wednesday to beat AEL Limassol 3-0 and advance 3-1 on aggregate.

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- AP


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