The official website for European football

Play-off contenders hoping to take the final step

Published: Saturday 13 August 2011, 12.49CET
The UEFA Champions League play-offs begin this week with four clubs aiming to reach the group stage for the first time and two former winners also looking to book their place.
Play-off contenders hoping to take the final step
Maor Melikson (right) has scored three goals for Wisła in 2011/12 qualifying ©Cyfrasport
Published: Saturday 13 August 2011, 12.49CET

Play-off contenders hoping to take the final step

The UEFA Champions League play-offs begin this week with four clubs aiming to reach the group stage for the first time and two former winners also looking to book their place.

The UEFA Champions League play-offs begin this week with four clubs bidding to reach the group stage for the first time.

Czech titleholders FC Viktoria Plzeň face a tough trip to FC København − who reached the round of 16 last term − on Tuesday before Wisła Kraków, 1979 European Cup runners-up Malmö FF and Odense BK begin their quest for a first group stage berth 24 hours later.

Beaten finalists in 2006, Arsenal FC must overcome Udinese Calcio to continue their run of featuring in every UEFA Champions League group stage since 1998/99. Former winners SL Benfica visit FC Twente and FC Bayern München host FC Zürich.

All five ties commencing on Wednesday will conclude on Tuesday 23 August, with the five remaining second legs drawing to a close the following night. The group stage draw, which includes holders FC Barcelona as one of 22 automatic entrants, takes place on 25 August in Monaco.

FC København v FC Viktoria Plzeň
• FCK have lost just once in their last seven European home games, a 2-0 defeat by Chelsea FC in last season's round of 16.
• Plzeň are by far the most inexperienced side in the play-offs; this is only their third season in Europe and they have never appeared in the group stage of a UEFA club competition.

FC BATE Borisov v SK Sturm Graz
• Belarusian champions for the fifth successive season, BATE are eyeing a return to the group stage after making their only previous appearance in 2008/09.
• Sturm have not played in it since their three successive campaigns from 1998/99 to 2000/01 but have lost only once in seven qualifying ties in Europe's top club competition.

FC Twente v SL Benfica
• This is Twente's third attempt at UEFA Champions League qualifying. They lost to Arsenal in the 2008/09 third qualifying round and to Sporting Clube de Portugal on away goals the following season.
• Benfica have triumphed in 13 of their last 15 European home games, winning five in succession at the Estádio Sport Lisboa e Benfica since their 2-1 defeat against FC Schalke 04 in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Arsenal FC v Udinese Calcio
• Arsenal have featured in every group stage since 1998/99 and can boast an unbeaten run of ten European home games since a 3-1 loss to Manchester United FC in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League semi-final.
• Udinese's only previous group stage campaign came in 2005/06, when they came within five minutes of reaching the round of 16, only to concede twice to FC Barcelona in their final Group C match and miss out on second place.

Olympique Lyonnais v FC Rubin Kazan
• Lyon have competed in every group stage since 2000/01, their most successful campaign coming in 2009/10, when they reached the semi-finals before going down 4-0 on aggregate to FC Bayern München.
• Rubin's 2-0 victory at FC Dynamo Kyiv in the third qualifying round ended a seven-game wait for a European away win since they stunned Barcelona 2-1 at the Camp Nou in the 2009/10 group stage.

Wisła Kraków v APOEL FC
• This is the seventh time Wisła have featured in UEFA Champions League qualifying; their six previous campaigns ended at the final hurdle.
• APOEL, who made their only group stage appearance in 2009/10, passed through this season's second and third qualifying rounds without conceding a goal and are unbeaten in five UEFA Champions League qualifying ties.

Maccabi Haifa FC v KRC Genk
• Haifa have happy memories of their only previous appearance in the play-offs, a 5-1 aggregate victory against FC Salzburg in 2009/10.
• Genk's only previous appearance in the UEFA Champions League proper came in the 2002/03 first group stage, where they failed to win a game and finished bottom, despite drawing with AEK Athens FC (twice), AS Roma and Real Madrid CF.

NK Dinamo Zagreb v Malmö FF
• Since their last group stage appearance 12 years ago, Dinamo have fallen at the last on five occasions, losing third qualifying round ties to AC Milan in 2000/01, FC Dynamo Kyiv (2003/04), Arsenal FC (2006/07), SV Werder Bremen (2007/08) and FC Shakhtar Donetsk (2008/09).
• Malmö are competing in Europe for the first time since 2005/06 and will hope to emulate their feat of reaching the 1979 European Cup final, which they lost 1-0 to Nottingham Forest FC in Munich.

Odense BK v Villarreal CF
• OB are the only club in the League route never to have featured in the group stage but will be buoyed by their record of having lost just once in their last 14 European home fixtures.
• Villarreal have featured in the group stage twice, reaching the semi-finals in 2005/06 and the quarter-finals in 2007/08 − Arsenal eliminated them on both occasions.

FC Bayern München v FC Zürich
• Four-time European champions Bayern have only been absent from the group stage once since 1997/98, featuring in the UEFA Cup in 2007/08.
• Zürich made it to the group stage for the only time in 2009/10. They failed to progress, but enjoyed two memorable games against AC Milan, a 1-0 win at San Siro and a 1-1 draw at home.

Last updated: 15/08/11 14.42CET

Related information

Team profiles

http://www.uefa.com/news/newsid=1659701.html#play+contenders+hoping+take+final+step

UEFA.com features

Penalty shoot-outs: the long and the short of it
  • Penalty shoot-outs: the long and the short of it
  • Story so far: Real Madrid CF
  • Guingamp magic floors Paris
  • Fenerbahçe great Alex calls time on career
  • Gabbiadini inspires high-flying Sampdoria
  • UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics
  • UEFA Europa League stars and strikes
  • Deciding drama: The best of matchday six
  • UEFA Youth League group stage by numbers
  • Masterclass: Ivan Rakitić free-kick guide
1 of 10
 
  • © 1998-2014 UEFA. All rights reserved.
  • The UEFA word, the UEFA logo and all marks related to UEFA competitions, are protected by trade marks and/or copyright of UEFA. No use for commercial purposes may be made of such trade marks. Use of UEFA.com signifies your agreement to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.