Arsenal will face tough Celtic clash
For the neutral football fan the clash of Arsenal and Celtic in the play-off stage of the Champions League is a mouth-watering prospect.
Unquestionably the tie of the round, it is a match worthy of the latter stages of the competition. The first leg will be played at Glasgow on August 18 with the return leg in north London a week later.
Celtic overcame Dinamo Moscow in the third qualifying round, winning 2-1 on aggregate, to set up the clash with Arsenal which will be donned the inevitable title of ‘The Battle of Britain’.
Going into the draw, Celtic weren’t seeded while Arsenal were, which allowed for the possibility of the two British clubs meeting each other. Arsene Wenger would have been hoping for a slightly easier path into the group stages, especially with recent injuries to Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky.
New signing from Ajax, Thomas Vermaelen could receive his baptism in British football at the imposing Celtic Park. Few grounds in Europe let alone Britain can rival the electric atmosphere of a European night in Glasgow.
Should the Belgian international start, his understanding with fellow defenders William Gallas, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna will certainly be tested by a rejuvenated Celtic side under new boss Tony Mobwray.
Dinamo Moscow caused an upset in the first leg as they defeated the hosts 1-0 on the night. It was a dour performance by a lacklustre Celtic side with the Russian hosts clearly the sharper side. But the SPL runners-up managed to overturn the deficit in Moscow as they produced a valiant display to win 2-0.
Celtic also won the Wembley Cup a fortnight ago as they beat Al Ahly and Tottenham (5-0 and 2-0 respectively). Arsenal have no room to take their Scottish opposition lightly. The revenue qualification can create a football club has been well documented in recent years, ranging from £4.4-20 million.
The two clubs have never previously encountered each other in European competition. Mark Venus relayed his thoughts to the media after the Champions League draw in Nyon. He admitted that of the five teams Celtic could have possibly drawn, Arsenal were the outfit they wanted to avoid.
He added: “But we’ve got to look forward to it, enjoy it and relish it. I think it’s a great draw for Scottish football. It’s going to be a great game, a great European night. Arsenal are a talented bunch of footballers, a totally technical team, very patient in the build-up.”