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Former favourite Hleb is set for Arsenal reunion


Familiar face: Alex Hleb is still with BATE Borisov aged 37
Familiar face: Alex Hleb is still with BATE Borisov aged 37

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Celtic were handed a tough tie in the Europa League round of 32 after the Scottish Premiership champions were drawn to face Valencia.

Brendan Rodgers' side made it into the knockout stages despite losing their final group match at home to Red Bull Salzburg.

Premier League pair Chelsea and Arsenal have what appear to be easier ties, the Blues drawn against Swedish side Malmo and the Gunners paired with BATE Borisov of Belarus.

Valencia dropped down from the Champions League having finished third in a group where they took four points off Manchester United.

The Spanish side are in 14th place in La Liga having drawn 10 of their 16 league games so far this season, with the first leg taking place at Celtic Park on February 14 and the return fixture at the Mestalla a week later.

Chelsea were rewarded for topping Group L by drawing Malmo, who finished third in the 2018 Allsvenskan.

The Blues progressed ahead of BATE, and the reigning Belarusian champions will meet another English opponent after being drawn to face Arsenal.

The two sides met in the group stage last season, with Arsenal winning both matches by an aggregate scoreline of 10-2.

Former Gunners favourite Alex Hleb is still turning out for BATE at 37 and will be looking forward to February's fixtures.

Uefa have altered the date and kick-off time for the game at the Emirates - with the match now slated to begin at 5.55pm on Thursday, February 21.

The original announcement from governing body Uefa that the game would be played a day earlier and begin at 5pm was widely criticised by Arsenal fans and supporters' groups.

Both Arsenal and London rivals Chelsea topped their respective groups and will therefore play their second legs at home - with Uefa rules stipulating the pair cannot play in the city on the same night.

The Gunners were the team whose fixture was initially brought forward, with Uefa confirming that, as FA Cup winners, Chelsea are given priority.

In Uefa's initial statement they said the Arsenal game would kick-off at 5pm on the Wednesday - but on the official fixture list it fell into line with the other second-leg ties which will kick-off early on the Thursday.

Elsewhere, Inter Milan take on Rapid Vienna with Napoli drawn against FC Zurich and Sporting Lisbon meeting Villarreal.

Lazio and five-time winners Sevilla meet, with Viktoria Plzen taking on Dinamo Zagreb and Club Brugge facing Red Bull Salzburg. Slavia Prague were drawn against Genk with Krasnodar v Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar Donetsk v Eintracht Frankfurt also coming out.

Rennes will meet Real Betis, Olympiakos face Dynamo Kiev, Fenerbahce play Zenit St Petersburg with Galatasaray v Benfica the last tie to be drawn.

Belfast Telegraph


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