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Winners and Losers from Champions League Draw

Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterAugust 8, 2014

Winners and Losers from Champions League Draw

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    Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

    The draw for the Champions League play-off round took place in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday, where participants discovered who stands in their way to the group stages.

    Previous finalists Arsenal, FC Porto and Bayer Leverkusen were all included in the draw, while smaller clubs such as Maribor and Slovan Bratislava were dreaming of a route into the lucrative first round.

    Celtic were arguably the biggest winners of the day after being handed a reprieve when UEFA disqualified Legia Warsaw for fielding an ineligible player in their third qualifying round second-leg win over the Scottish champions.

    Celtic were beaten 6-1 on aggregate, but the European governing body awarded the Hoops the second leg as a 3-0 win to gift them "victory" in the tie on away goals.

    Of all, which club has received a favourable pairing in the play-off round? Who has been handed a difficult tie in the chase for the group stages?

    Here we take a look at the winners and losers from the play-off round draw. 

Arsenal: Winners

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    Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will have some concerns over his team's pairing with Besiktas in the draw.

    The Turkish club might have finished third in the Super Lig table to enter the Champions League, but playing in front of such a partisan crowd brings its own threat to the Gunners' hopes of reaching the group stages.

    Arsenal have never played Besiktas in competitive action before, but they will need to hit the ground running with the first leg of the tie coming just days after their opening match of the Premier League season against Crystal Palace.

    Wenger will need to have his team well-disciplined for the opening match in Istanbul, where the Gunners will need at least a draw to give themselves a decent chance at the Emirates Stadium the following week.

    With that being said, most of the current Arsenal squad have experience of playing in front of a partisan Turkish crowd after securing comfortable wins at Fenerbahce in recent seasons, and they should progress to the group stages from a play-off round that could have been far worse. 

FC Porto: Winners

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    Two-time European champions FC Porto were unlikely to face a comfortable draw in the league route of the draw, but they will be content with the prospect of facing Lille.

    The Portuguese club, who won the European Cup in 1987 and 2004, finished third in the table last season behind Benfica and Sporting, but they should be too strong for the Ligue 1 club.

    Of course, Lille will have the advantage of having begun their domestic campaign this weekend, and new Liverpool signing Divock Origi has been loaned back to the French club for the season as well.

    Porto, though, are experienced campaigners at this level and will boast talents such as Netherlands defender Bruno Martins Indi in their ranks for the Champions League. 

Athletic Bilbao: Losers

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    Athletic Bilbao were never going to face an easy ride into the Champions League group stages, but their pairing with Napoli was arguably the last thing they wanted.

    In what appears to be the tie of the play-off round, the Basque club will travel to Naples for the first leg before the return match at Estadio San Mames.

    Athletic will be without their star man from last season, Ander Herrera, who has joined Manchester United this summer, and their La Liga season will only start after the first leg.

    Meanwhile, Rafael Benitez's Napoli will be waiting a week longer for the opening of their Serie A season.

    This promises to be an intriguing tie for both clubs, but Napoli should just shade it, leaving Athletic to drop into the Europa League for next season. 

Bayer Leverkusen: Winners

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    Bayer Leverkusen's Champions League campaign last season came undone in the last 16, where Paris Saint-Germain were too strong for the German club.

    However, the pairing with FC Copenhagen of Denmark affords the Bundesliga side a great opportunity to enter the group stages this year.

    Former Liverpool star Sami Hyypia had guided Leverkusen through a group that included Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Shakhtar Donetsk.

    However, after his sacking in April, Sascha Lewandowski has taken over first-team affairs and will be in the dugout for the two legs against the Danes.

Celtic: Winners

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    Few would argue that the biggest winners of the Champions League play-off round are Celtic.

    After being beaten 6-1 on aggregate by Legia Warsaw in the previous qualifying round, the Scottish champions were granted a reprieve after UEFA disqualified the Polish club for fielding an illegitimate player in the second leg at Murrayfield.

    The Hoops were reinstated to the Champions League just minutes before the draw, and they were paired with NK Maribor in the first match drawn from the bowls.

    The Slovenian club will represent a relatively unknown quantity for Celtic, but if Ronny Deila's side can find a return to form before the first leg away from home, the Scots should be celebrating a third successive appearance in the group stages. 

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