Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Celtic gunning for Arsenal

Celtic boss Tony Mowbray has vowed to leave no stone unturned as he tries to mastermind a shock Champions League win over Arsenal.

The Hoops were handed the toughest possible opponents in yesterday morning's play-off round draw in Nyon but Mowbray is adamant his side can upset the odds.

A place in the lucrative group stage is at stake in the latest all-British tie in Europe's premier club competition and new manager Mowbray is determined to grab it.

“We will be doing everything we possibly can to get to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League,” Mowbray said.

“The club has had a lot of success in the tournament in recent years and we will try to continue that.”

Mowbray was on Celtic's training pitch at Barrowfield when news filtered through they had been paired with the Gunners.

Arsene Wenger's men were semi-finalists last year but Mowbray is upbeat about his side's chances following Wednesday's historic 2-0 third qualifying round second leg win at Dinamo Moscow.

It was the first time Celtic had won a European tie after losing the first leg at home and Mowbray said: “The attitude and application of the players since I arrived at Celtic has been first class, and their ability was there for all to see against Dinamo on Wednesday.”

He added: “It's a tough draw for us but everyone at the club is looking forward to two games against one of the top sides in European football.

“It's a glamour draw for both clubs and one that will certainly capture the imagination of supporters north and south of the border. We can all look forward to two fantastic European nights.

“I have huge respect for Arsene and the job he's done at Arsenal. He's had a lot of success at the club and has built a side that plays the game in the right way.

“They don't spend the millions on players that other English clubs do, but they play with a real style and always try to entertain.”

And Mowbray’s assistant manager Mark Venus claims Arsenal will have been just as keen to avoid the Hoops. Venus admits Arsenal were the last team Celtic wanted but reckons the Londoners will be equally worried about a trip to Parkhead.

“I think there might have been easier ties — with the greatest of respect — for Arsenal to face,” said Venus.

“They will be just starting their season like us, but we've had a lot of games already.

“We've already had a competitive two-match tie and we got through. I think they will be wary of it and I don't think it's the game they entirely would have wanted.”

Despite their lack of competitive action, Arsenal handed Rangers a footballing lesson in Sunday's Emirates Cup clash.

Yet, Venus sees weaknesses in Arsene Wenger's young side which Celtic can exploit when the teams meet competitively for the first time ever on Tuesday week.

“It's not an impregnable club,” Venus said. “They're still young, they have got some immaturity at Arsenal — it's there for all to see. But they are very talented footballers who, on their night, can give anyone in the world a good game.”

Atletico Madrid coach Abel Resino was delighted to have avoided Arsenal and Lyon in the play-offs. The Spanish side face Panathinaikos in Greece on August 19 before the return leg in Madrid six days later.

And although Resino admits the draw has been kind to his team, he insists they are still in for a tough test.

“It's clear that there were two more dangerous rivals,” he said.

“Above all we didn't want to meet either Arsenal or Lyon and moreover we're playing the second match at home, which is fantastic.

“With these premises I consider that the draw has been good.”

Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli has told his players to focus on beating Sporting Lisbon and not the possible challenges which could lie ahead.

“Sporting Lisbon are a strong squad with a lot of international experience,” he said.

The first leg will be in Portugal on August 18 before Fiorentina play host to Sporting on August 26.

From the “champions” route, FC Sheriff play Olympiacos, Salzburg are up against Maccabi Haifa, FK Ventspils face FC Zurich, FC Copenhagen and APOEL of Nicosia face each other, with Levski Sofia and Debrecen the final two teams.

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