1 Thing to Fear from Every Potential Champions League Opponent
Arsenal are seeded for the Champions League qualifying round draw and will face one of Athletic Bilbao, Lille, Copenhagen, Standard Liege or Besiktas in hope of claiming a 17th consecutive group-stage berth.
The Gunners only have to compete in this preliminary round because of their fourth-place Premier League finish, but they have not had much trouble making it through these qualifying rounds in recent years.
Let's look ahead, then, to every possible opponent Arsenal might face.
Athletic Bilbao: Iker Muniain
Iker Muniain has been an obvious starlet for years now, and it is a wonder that he has not been snapped up by another large team yet.
At 21 years old, he is a Spain international and has already made a remarkable 162 league appearances for Athletic Bilbao, mainly on the left wing.
He is extremely fast and able to use his quick feet to elude players at pace, making him very dangerous. Muniain could produce one brilliant moment that would unlock Arsenal's defense and turn the entire tie.
Lille: Divock Origi
After a breakout World Cup, Liverpool signed Divock Origi from Lille. However, probably in an effort to reduce the 19-year-old's transfer fee, the Reds loaned him right back to Lille for the entire season.
That creates an awkward situation for the French side, but Arsenal will have to worry about an emerging, yet still largely unknown commodity who they have never played against.
The Gunners often have trouble with big, physical strikers, and Origi can give the defense a run for its money, despite the fact that he is still a teenager.
Arsenal will have to keep him under wraps to do the same to Lille.
Copenhagen: The Unknown
Arsenal have a large scouting network that extends throughout Europe and beyond, but I would be surprised if they knew much about this particular Danish club.
Even ESPN FC does not have a Copenhagen squad listed for this season. While they are not Blackpool, in that they have enough players to play, Arsene Wenger and his staff are unlikely to know much about a Danish club that, though good, might not beat a lower league side in England.
Wenger and the players will have to watch a significant amount of tape to tactically prepare for an unknown quantity.
Standard Liege: Belief
Very few outside of Belgium expected Standard Liege to make it this far in the qualifiers. They have the second-worst coefficient of anyone in the pool of unseeded teams.
However, they fought valiantly to get past Panathinaikos 2-1 on aggregate and advance to the final qualifying round. Unlike in past seasons, Standard have no big names on their team. Rather, they put in a gritty team effort that won them the tie.
Though Arsenal probably have the quality to get past them, the potential tie poses a unique challenge.
Besiktas: Playing in Turkey
Though Besiktas finished third in the Turkish Super Lig last season, they always pose a challenge to any team traveling to face them.
As Arsenal learned when they played Fenerbahce last season, away games in Turkey are a unique challenge. The fans are intensely passionate about their team and no one lets you rest for any prolonged period of time.
Even if the Gunners are up 2-0 after the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Besiktas will be spurred on in the second league by their partisan, Champions League-thirsty fans.
However, while each team poses a different challenge to Arsenal, this is the most manageable.
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