Arsenal could face a Champions League nightmare against Athletic Bilbao in today’s final play-off draw.
The Gunners will face one of Bilbao, Lille, FC Copenhagen, Standard Liege or Besiktas over two legs for the right to enter the group stage of Europe’s premier competition.
Arsenal have the highest UEFA coefficient of all the 20 teams who will enter today’s draw, which takes place at 11 o’clock this morning.
But they cannot face any of the ten clubs who won their domestic Championship last season.
They will be part of the ten-team group who claimed the last of their country’s Champions League spots through their final league position.
The five teams with the highest UEFA rankings – Arsenal, Porto, Zenit St.Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli – are then drawn against the remaining five clubs with the lower coefficient.
It leaves Arsene Wenger’s team facing a potential tough test against a Bilbao team who finished fourth in Spain last season or another long-haul trip to Istanbul to face Besiktas after last year’s draw against Fenerbahce.
The Gunners are bidding to reach the group stages of the Champions League for an incredible 17th successive year, a record matched only by Barcelona.
This will be the seventh time in the last ten years that they have had to go through the qualifying round to claim their place among Europe’s elite 32 teams.
But the good news is that they have won all of their previous play-off ties against Dinamo Zagreb, Sparta Prague, FC Twente, Celtic, Udinese and Fenerbahce without too much trouble.