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Arsenal, Porto head play-offs draw

Published:Friday | August 8, 2014 | 8:00 AM
Arenal's manager Arsene Wenger.

GENEVA (AP):

Arsenal and Porto are among the big clubs entering the Champions League qualifying campaign when the draw for the last-round play-offs is held today.

Arsenal, chasing a 17th straight group-stage campaign, and two-time European champions, Porto, are the highest-ranked teams in the 20-team draw.

They are seeded with Zenit St Petersburg, 2002 runners-up Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli in the section for teams, which are not national champions.

Their unseeded opponents are Athletic Bilbao, Lille, Copenhagen, Standard Liege and Besiktas. The Turkish club advanced from the third qualifying round Wednesday with a hat-trick from former Chelsea forward Demba Ba to beat Feyenoord 3-1 and complete a 5-2 aggregate win.

"He is not 100 percent but fit to play," Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic said of his new signing.

Clubs from the top five leagues in UEFA's rankings - Spain, England, Germany, Italy and Portugal - join in the fourth and final qualifying round, with two-leg matches scheduled for August 19-20 and August 26-27.

In the champions section, 1986 European Cup winners Steaua Bucharest are seeded with Salzburg, APOEL, BATE Borisov and Ludogorets Razgrad.

Potential opponents are Maribor, Legia Warsaw, Slovan Bratislava, 1979 runner-up Malmo and Aalborg.

Playoff winners join the 22 clubs directly qualified for the group stage. The eight four-team groups will be drawn August 28 in Monaco.

The 10 play-off losers enter the second-tier Europa League group stage.

Though each play-off team gets €2.1 million ($$2.8 million) from UEFA, the real prize - in status and cash - comes in the six-match Champions League group stage which kicks off in September.

UEFA pays a basic €8.6 million (US$11.5 million) fee for reaching group stage, plus one million euros (US$1.34 million) per win and €500,000 (US$670,000) per draw.

Teams also get a share of television rights money in a near €1 billion (US$1.34 billion) payout shared by the 32 group teams.

Arsenal's streak of claiming a share of that bonanza started in the 1998-99 season.

Zenit were fined €6 million (US$8 million) of their prize money last season by UEFA for breaching Financial Fair Play rules, and are restricted to registering only 22 senior players in this year's competition instead of the usual 25-man squad.