Fenerbahçe to play against Arsenal in Champions League play-offs

Fenerbahçe to play against Arsenal in Champions League play-offs

NYON - The Associated Press
Fenerbahçe to play against Arsenal in Champions League play-offs

Fenerbahces' Moussa Sow celebrates after scoring a goal during an UEFA Champions League third qualifying round second leg football match between Fenerbahce and Salzburg at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium on August 6, 2013. AFP PHOTO

enerbahçe was handed a difficult matchup in its bid to return to European football’s premier club competition, the Champions League, after being paired with English giants Arsenal.

But a pending match-fixing case involving the Yellow Canaries at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) means that even if the Istanbul side negotiates the tie against its illustrious London opponents, it could be expelled from the competition on the alleged rigging charges.

CAS has set an Aug. 28 deadline to rule on Fenerbahçe’s appeal against a two-year ban from UEFA competitions.

UEFA’s Champions League rules require clubs not to have been involved in fixing matches since April 2007, and several Fenerbahçe officials were convicted in a criminal trial of fixing matches during the club’s 2011 national title run. They deny wrongdoing.

Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe’s main rival, defeated Arsenal in the pre-season Emirates Cup on Aug. 4.

Metalist Kharkiv, who finished second in the Ukrainian league behind Shakhtar Donetsk, also faces UEFA sanctions after CAS last month dismissed an appeal by the Ukrainian club’s sports director against a five-year ban from football. The Ukrainian federation had judged that Metalist’s 4-0 win against Karpaty Lviv in an April 2008 league match was fixed.

Metalist Vice President Konstantin Pivovarov confirmed that even if UEFA rules against the club, it is likely to appeal that verdict at CAS and try to continue in the competition.

But Metalist’s Champions League playoff opponents, Schalke, said they were still preparing for the clubs’ tie. “We’re expecting to play Metalist,” Schalke official Moritz Beckers-Schwarz said.

If Metalist is removed, its defeated third qualifying round opponent, PAOK Thessaloniki, could in theory be reinstated.

The other Champions League pairings include Lyon vs. Real Sociedad, Paços de Ferreira vs. Zenit St. Petersburg, Shakhter Karagandy vs. Celtic, PSV Eindhoven vs. AC Milan, Dinamo Zagreb vs. Austria Wien, Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Basel, Viktoria Plzen vs. Maribor and Steaua Bucharest vs. Legia Warsaw.

The first legs will be played Aug. 20 or 21, while the return matches will be on Aug. 27 or 28.

Beşiktaş’s rival known by Turks

Another Turkish team, Beşiktaş, was paired with Norway’s Tromso in the Europe League playoffs.

Like Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş faces UEFA sanctions. CAS has also set an Aug. 28 deadline to rule on Beşiktaş’s appeal against a one-year ban from UEFA competitions.

Tromso are already known by Turkish football fans, especially Galatarasay’s. Galatasaray, the UEFA Cup winner 2000, was defeated by Tromso in the 2005-06 UEFA Cup. Trabzonspor eliminated Belarus’s Dinamo Misk in the last round, but compatriots Bursaspor meekly went down to a 3-0 home loss to Serbia’s Vojvodina, putting them out 5-2 on aggregate. Bursa coach Hikmet Karaman resigned in the wake of the exit.

The participation of Fenerbahçe SK, Beşiktaş and FC Metalist Kharkiv in the competition is subject to pending disciplinary and CAS proceedings.