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Udinese Calcio vs. Arsenal FC UEFA Champions League preview

by Football Pub on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

UEFA Champions League logoArsenal FC travel to Udinese Calcio for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off tie with the narrowest of leads, although the form guide does not augur well for Arsène Wenger’s side.

Theo Walcott scored the only goal of an open and entertaining first leg after four minutes in north London on 16 August.

The sides had never met in UEFA competition before the first leg.

Arsenal have played 26 games against Italian clubs with the record W12 D8 L6 (W4 D4 L4 away). The most notable of those fixtures was the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final, where Alan Smith scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Parma FC in Copenhagen.

Udinese‘s only previous game against English opponents prior to the first leg was a 2-0 home victory against Arsenal’s north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur FC in a 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage game. Antonio di Natale put them ahead from the penalty spot before Simone Pepe hit the second four minutes from time.

Udinese’s defeat of Tottenham was the start of a five-game unbeaten sequence at home in Europe, with a run of four straight wins followed by a 3-3 draw with SV Werder Bremen in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup quarter-finals.

The Gunners have won only one of their last eight European games on the road, 3-1 at FK Partizan in last season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. They have suffered three straight defeats away from home. Arsenal have featured in every UEFA Champions League group stage since 1998/99. They have not played in the UEFA Europa League since its evolution from the UEFA Cup and their most recent game in that competition was the 1999/2000 final, which they lost 4-1 on penalties to Galatasaray AŞ after a 0-0 draw in Copenhagen.

Arsenal have come through a qualifying round to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage in four of the last five seasons. They won all eight of those qualifying games, overcoming NK Dinamo Zagreb (2006/07, agg: 5-1), AC Sparta Praha (2007/08, agg: 5-0), FC Twente (2008/09, agg: 6-0) and Celtic FC (2009/10, agg: 5-1).

Udinese’s only previous group stage campaign came in 2005/06. Under Serse Cosmi they came within five minutes of reaching the round of 16, only to concede twice to FC Barcelona in their final Group C match to miss out on second place.

That campaign brought the club’s only appearance in UEFA Champions League qualifying prior to this year. They beat Sporting Clube de Portugal 1-0 away and 3-2 at home to get through the third, and at that time final, qualifying round.

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