Thursday, August 26, 2010

Champions League and We're 'avin a Laff

UPDATED: The fixtures do not work the same as they did last year. The following is the order of matchdays: 1) Braga home 2) Partizan away 3) Shakhtar Donetsk home 4) Shakhtar Donetsk away 5) Braga away 6) Partizan home. Days are 1) Wednesday 2) Tuesday 3) Tuesday 4) Wednesday 5) Tuesday 6) Wednesday. Ignore all other fixture information in the body of the post.

I chose not to live blog the drawing because it was just painfully long-winded and boring. In any case, Arsenal has been place in Group H this season, as they were last year, and as they were in 2005-06 when they reached the Final in Paris.

From Pot 2, Arsenal has drawn Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk, notable as the team to which Arsenal sold Eduardo last month. Since I believe the schedule works in the same way every year as to when teams from each pot travels to another, Eduardo will be returning to the Emirates in the last week on September (days before Arsenal plays Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.) Arsenal will be traveling to the Ukraine days before hosting Manchester United, which just sounds dreadful right now.

Shakhtar Donetsk is the only team in the group which Arsenal has played before; they met in group play in the 2000-01 Champions League. Arsenal won 3-2 at Highbury, but lost 3-0 in the Ukraine.

Shakhtar Donetsk won the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) in 2009.

From Pot 3, Arsenal has drawn Sporting Braga from Portugal, a team nicknamed "The Arsenalists" because their jersey is similar in style to the Gunners' strip. Braga qualified by defeating Sevilla from Spain in a thrilling tie, 5-3 on aggregate after a wild 4-3 win in Seville on Tuesday. Braga finished second in Portugal last season, behind champions Benfica. Arsenal will play Braga in mid-October and early November. This is Braga's first trip to the group stage.

Arsenal faced Portuguese competition in last year's Champions League, defeating FC Porto 6-2 on aggregate in the Round of 16, after Fabianski made a disaster of the road leg and Bendtner picked up a hat trick at home.

From Pot 4, Arsenal has drawn Serbian champion Partizan Belgrade. Partizan survived three qualifying rounds to advance to the group stage. In the second qualifying round, they defeated Armenian champion Pyunik 4-1 on aggregate. In the third qualifying round, they defeated Finland's HJK Helsinki 5-1, and in the play-off round for champions, they defeated Belgium's Anderlecht on penalties. Arsenal will open their Champions League campaign in Belgrade in mid-September, then will host Partizan in late November.

Also, let's all laugh at Tottenham... they've drawn Internazionale Milano, Werder Bremen, and the Netherlands' FC Twente in their group.

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