Arsenal face Udinese in Champions League play-off

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Boss Arsene Wenger guided Arsenal to the 2006 Champions League final

Arsenal have been drawn against Udinese in the play-off to reach the group stage of the Champions League.

The Gunners will be at home for the first leg of the tie against the Italians on Tuesday 16 August, with the return leg seven days later.

Bayern Munich face FC Zurich, Dutch side FC Twente take on Benfica and Lyon take on Russia's Rubin Kazan.

The Gunners are bidding to join Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City in the group stage.

Arsenal face the qualifying tie to reach the group stage of the Champions League for a 14th consecutive season because they finished fourth in last season's Premier League.

Club secretary David Miles said the Gunners were happy to avoid the long trip to Russia to face Rubin Kazan.

"It would have been difficult. But we won't underestimate [Udinese] at all. The draw gives us the home leg first and hopefully we will take a lead over there," Miles said.

Udinese, who were not seeded in the draw, qualified after finishing fourth in Serie A. This summer the club have sold star winger Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona and key midfielder Gokhan Inler to Napoli.

Udinese general manager Franco Collavini said: "We are working to complete our squad by 31 August. We're not running to complete our squad for the [Champions League] play-offs.

"We will make our best effort to prepare our team in the best way. We respect Arsenal. It's one of the most important clubs in Europe."

During Arsenal's Champions League exit to Barcelona in March, Robin van Persie was given a second yellow card for shooting at goal after match official Massimo Busacca had blown his whistle for offside.

Van Persie's dismissal means he will sit out the first leg against Udinese, while midfielder Samir Nasri is also banned after being reprimanded by Uefa for an outburst at Busacca.

The first leg of their tie with Udinese is sandwiched between the first Premier League game of the season at Newcastle and the visit of Liverpool to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday 20 August.

The second leg, in Italy on 23 August, precedes their Premier League trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

The 10 play-off winners will then join the 22 automatically qualified teams for the group stage draw to be held in Monaco on 25 August.

Champions League play-off draw:

Wisla Krakow v Apoel Nicosia

Maccabi Haifa v Genk

Dinamo Zagreb v Malmo FF

FC Copenhagen v Plzen

BATE v SK Sturm Graz

Odense BK v Villarreal

FC Twente v Benfica

Arsenal v Udinese

Bayern Munich v FC Zurich

Lyon v Rubin Kazan

Ties to be played 16/17 and 23/24 August

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