Two teams who between them have contested three of the last four senior UEFA club finals meet on Matchday 1 in Group H as Arsenal FC take on debutants Sevilla FC.
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Two teams who between them have contested three of the last four senior UEFA club finals meet on Matchday 1 in Group H. It is a mouthwatering tie with Arsenal FC taking on double UEFA Cup winners Sevilla FC mindful of the fact that it was a team from Spain who deprived them of their UEFA Champions League title dream 16 months ago.
• Arsenal had disposed of Real Madrid CF and then Villarreal CF in the knockout rounds in 2005/06 but then found FC Barcelona too strong as the Catalan club battled back from going a goal down to win 2-1. It was a huge disappointment for the London club but not a new experience: on two previous occasions they had lost in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final to Spanish sides, Valencia CF in 1979/80 and Real Zaragoza in 1994/95.
• In their tenth successive campaign in Europe’s most prestigious club competition, the London club will be defending a proud home record – spanning two grounds – as well as looking to get off on a winning note for the fourth successive year. It is also the fourth time in five years they have begun in front of their own supporters.
• Their recent home statistics are formidable – since losing a 2003/04 quarter-final second leg to Chelsea FC at Highbury, Arsenal played ten matches in the competition at their old stadium without losing, winning seven and drawing three. Now they have gone another five matches unbeaten, including last season’s third qualifying round, at their new home in nearby Ashburton Grove, with three wins and two draws.
• They have never faced Sevilla before in European competition and the visitors will be heartened by the fact they do not always have things their own way when playing host to Spanish opponents. In eight home ties in the competition they have suffered two defeats and two draws, though one of the reverses came while they were staging home matches at Wembley. At home to Spanish visitors in UEFA Champions League group matches their record is W1 D1 L2.
• In the past seven seasons Arsène Wenger’s team have never failed to get out of the initial group stage and in the last five they have always qualified as section winners. It is a tough start for Sevilla on their UEFA Champions League bow but as winners of the UEFA Cup for the last two seasons - becoming only the second team to successfully defend the trophy - who is to say they will not now perform with flying colours in the senior competition as well.
• Their brief involvement so far has proved a severe test of their mental and emotional strength following the death of Antonio Puerta. They dedicated their 6-1 aggregate victory of AEK Athens FC in the third qualifying round - which meant that they would be making only their second appearance in the European Champion Clubs' Cup, 50 years after their debut – to the midfielder.
• Puerta was a Spain Under-21 team-mate of Cesc Fabregas, with the Arsenal midfielder dedicating his goal last month in the 3-0 second-leg defeat of AC Sparta Praha that secured a 5-0 aggregate third qualifying round victory to his friend.
• In their twin UEFA Cup campaigns coach Juande Ramos’ team, who lost last month’s UEFA Super Cup to AC Milan 3-1, have faced three opponents from England, including Middlesbrough FC whom they beat in the 2006 final in Eindhoven 4-0. Earlier they had drawn 1-1 away to Bolton Wanderers FC in the group stage while in last season’s quarter-finals they defeated Tottenham Hotspur FC 2-1 at home before drawing 2-2 away. They went on to beat RCD Espanyol 3-1 on penalties in the Hampden Park final after the Spanish rivals had drawn 2-2.
• The other teams in the group are FC Steaua Bucureşti and SK Slavia Praha.