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Tough tests for Napoli and Porto in play-offs

SSC Napoli and FC Porto drew Athletic Club and LOSC Lille in the UEFA Champions League play-offs while Arsenal FC face a Turkish team for the second year running.

Tough tests for Napoli and Porto in play-offs
Tough tests for Napoli and Porto in play-offs ©Getty Images

SSC Napoli and FC Porto face tough tasks to return to the UEFA Champions League group stage having been paired with Athletic Club and LOSC Lille respectively in the play-off draw in Nyon.

Both Napoli and Porto were eliminated in the group stage last season and, having finished third in Serie A and the Portuguese Liga respectively in 2013/14, must now overcome LOSC – third in Ligue 1 last term – and the Spanish Liga's fourth-placed side Athletic, whose sole previous group appearance came in 1998/99.

For the second season running Arsenal FC face Turkish opposition at this juncture. Twelve months ago they defeated Fenerbahçe SK in the play-offs; now they have been pitted against Beşiktaş JK, whose fifth and last group stage campaign came in 2009/10. Elsewhere in the league route, Danish runners-up FC København take on Bayer 04 Leverkusen and R. Standard de Liège play FC Zenit. The last two met in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup first round, when Zenit won 4-1 on aggregate and went on to lift the trophy.

That tie is the only one of the ten play-off fixtures in which the teams have encountered each other before. In the champions route, Sweden's Malmö FF, PFC Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria and Slovak title holders ŠK Slovan Bratislava need to negotiate FC Salzburg, FC Steaua Bucureşti and FC BATE Borisov to earn a first group appearance. Celtic FC, restored to the competition after Legia Warszawa were excluded, tackle Slovenia's NK Maribor.

©Getty Images

UEFA Champions League play-offs

Beşiktaş JK (TUR) v Arsenal FC (ENG) - 19/27 August
R. Standard de Liège (BEL) v FC Zenit (RUS) - 20/26 August
FC København (DEN) v Bayer 04 Leverkusen (GER) - 19/27 August
LOSC Lille (FRA) v FC Porto (POR) - 20/26 August
SSC Napoli (ITA) v Athletic Club (ESP) - 19/27 August

NK Maribor (SVN) v Celtic FC (SCO) - 20/26 August
FC Salzburg (AUT) v Malmö FF (SWE)-  19/27 August
Aalborg BK (DEN) v APOEL FC (CYP) - 20/26 August
FC Steaua Bucureşti (ROU) v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL) - 19/27 August
ŠK Slovan Bratislava (SVK) v FC BATE Borisov (BLR) - 20/26 August

The ten winners of the play-off round ties join 22 automatic entrants in the group stage draw in Monaco on 28 August. The ten losers go into the UEFA Europa League group stage.

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