BERNE - Arsenal, with 13 consecutive
Champions League appearances, and Olympique Lyon, with 11, are
in danger of ending their long presence as they face difficult
qualifying ties this week.
On the other hand, Viktoria Plzen, representing a city more
famous for beer than football, are poised to qualify for the
first time while Odense and Wisla Krakow could follow suit if
they can defend narrow leads away from home.
Former champions Bayern Munich and Benfica, also involved in
this week's 10 second leg ties in the fourth qualifying round,
are well-placed to guarantee their places.
Arsenal will take a slender 1-0 lead to Udinese for
Wednesday's match which could not have come at a worse time for
Arsene Wenger's team.
Hit by injuries and the departure of midfielder Cesc
Fabregas to Barcelona, Arsenal have taken only one point out of
six in the Premier League but their poor domestic start would be
nothing compared to missing out on the Champions League for the
first time since 1997/98.
Udinese consider the Champions League as a bonus and sold
key players Gokhan Inler and Alexis Sanchez as they decided to
cash in on last season's impressive fourth place in Serie A.
Despite this, and not having played a competitive match this
season, Udinese produced a slick performance in London last
Olympique Lyon have a two-goal cushion to take to Rubin
Kazan after their 3-1 win last week although the Russians' away
goal is cause for concern for the French side.
"We have an advantage but we're not through yet because
anything can happen in the Champions League," said Lyon striker
Bafetimbi Gomis, who scored in the first leg.
"Rubin have a good mentality, as well as being tough
competitors. It'll be like a war over there so we'll need to
make the most of our weapons."
Viktoria Plzen's 3-1 win away to FC Copenhagen last week has
given them an excellent chance to qualify on Wednesday and put
the city where Pilsener beer was developed in the 19th century
on the football map as well.
Viktoria's squad is all-Czech apart from four players from
Wisla Krakow, on the other hand, fielded only two Poles in
their starting line-up last week in the 1-0 win at home to
APOEL, who had only one Cypriot player.
The Polish team, who visit the Cypriots on Tuesday, have
reached the final stage of the qualifiers for the seventh time,
having lost on all six previous occasions.
Denmark's Odense also take a 1-0 advantage to 2006
semi-finalists Villarreal on Tuesday.
Four-times European champions Bayern Munich, whose Allianz
Arena will host the final, will enjoy a 2-0 cushion at FC
The Swiss League runners-up showed little last week to
suggest they have what it takes to overturn the deficit in
Tuesday's return at the Letzigrund, better known for staging the
annual Weltklasse athletics meeting.
Benfica, who started with eight South Americans and no
Portuguese players last week, are in the driving seat for the
visit of Twente Enschede on Wednesday after last week's 2-2 draw
in the Netherlands.
Twice European champions and five-times runners-up, Benfica
have made a surprisingly modest six appearances in the Champions
In the other three ties, Dinamo Zagreb, Croatian champions
for the last six seasons, take a 4-1 lead to former European Cup
finalists Malmo on Tuesday and Sturm Graz start as favourites at
home to Belarus side BATE Borisov on Wednesday after drawing 1-1
away last week.
Maccabi Haifa defend a 2-1 lead at Genk, where coach Frank
Vercauteren has left since last week's first leg and to join
United Arab Emirates outfit Al Jazira Club.
Pierre Denier and Hans Visser, Vercauteren's former
assistants, will be in charge of the Belgian side in Tuesday's
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