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Napoli face Bilbao in Champions League playoff

08 August 2014, 20:00

Nyon - Napoli, bidding to reach the Champions League group stage for the third time and the second in a row, were handed a daunting tie against Athletic Bilbao in the draw for the playoff round on Friday.

Arsenal, hoping to qualify for the 17th consecutive season, must face Turkey's Besiktas and twice former champions Porto were also handed a difficult draw as they were paired against Lille, with the French club at home the first leg.

Rafael Benitez's Napoli finished third in Serie A last season, only enough for a place in the playoff round after Italy slipped down the national coefficients which determine how many places each league gets in the tournament.

Bilbao, fourth in La Liga, were beaten Europa League finalists in 2012.

Arsenal also met Turkish opposition at the same stage last season when they beat Fenerbahce 5-0 on aggregate over two legs.

"It's nice we have got the second leg at home," Arsenal club secretary David Miles told reporters.

"They (the playoff ties) come relatively early in the season, and our three German World Cup winners won't even be back, or will be just starting training then, so probably we won't have the full squad to choose from,

"Nevertheless, we've got a good squad, quality in depth and I'm sure will be okay."

The first legs will be played on Aug. 19/20 with the returns on Aug. 26/27.

Scottish champions Celtic, reprieved after third qualifying round opponents Legia Warsaw fielded an ineligible player in their 6-1 aggregate win, will meet Slovenian champions Maribor.

Former European champions Steaua Bucharest were paired with Bulgaria's Ludogorets Razgrad while Cypriot champions APOEL Nicosia, who reached the quarter-finals two seasons ago, were drawn against Danish counterparts AaB Aalborg.

Malmo, runners-up in 1979, play Austrian champions Salzburg, who are attempting to reach the group stage for the first time since Red Bull's takeover in 2005.

FC Copenhagen will meet Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, Belgium's Standard Liege face Zenit St Petersburg and Slovan Bratislava play Belarusian champions BATE Borisov in the other of the 10 ties.

UEFA said that the vanishing spray, used at the World Cup to display the correct distance between a free kick and the defensive wall, would be used in the tournament, starting with the playoff round.

Maribor (Slovenia) v Celtic (Scotland)

Salzburg (Austria) v Malmo (Sweden)

AaB (Denmark) v APOEL (Cyprus)

Steaua (Romania) v Ludogorets (Hungary)

Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia) v BATE (Belarus)

Besiktas (Turkey) v Arsenal (England)

Standard Liege (Belgium) v Zenit (Russia)

Copenhagen (Denmark) V Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)

Lille (France) v Porto (Portugal)

Napoli (Italy) v Athletic Bilbao (Spain)

Matches to be played Aug. 19/20 and Aug. 26/27

- Reuters


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