Arsenal v Celtic in play-offs. Is this what Platini wanted?
The draw for the Champions League final qualifying round raises the question whether Michel Platini and UEFA have done the right thing by giving teams from Europe’s less heralded leagues a better chance of reaching the money-spinning group stage.
On one hand, restructuring the qualifying campaign has opened the group stage doors to Latvian champions Venstpils, Cypriots APOEL Nicosia, Hungarian title holders Debrecen and Moldovans Sheriff Tiraspol.
On the other, it has pitted former European Cup winners Celtic against 2006 finalists Arsenal, with the loser confined to taking part in the Europa Liga, the continent’s second tier competition.
The new formula means the Champions League lucrative group stage will now have more champions from obscure countries on Europe’s soccer map at the expense of third and fourth-placed teams from the top leagues.
It gives unfancied teams a chance to boost their finances and close the gap on wealthier rivals, but it also runs the risk of depriving Europe’s premier club competition of some of its glamour.
Would you rather watch both Celtic and Arsenal in the Champions league proper or draw pleasure from seeing a pack of underdogs take centre stage instead?
And crucially, will the new qualifying format last long enough for the new arrivals to establish themselves as regular campaigners?
Give us your thoughts.
PHOTO: UEFA President Michel Platini gestures during a news conference at the end of the organisation’s executive committee meeting in Bucharest May 13, 2009. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel