Arsenal FC have never lost a UEFA Champions League qualifying tie, but that immaculate record is set for perhaps its toughest test to date as Udinese Calcio come to London.
The sides are meeting for the first time in UEFA competition. Arsenal have played 25 games against Italian clubs with the record W11 D8 L6 (W6 D4 L2 at home). The most notable of those fixtures was the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final, Alan Smith scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Parma FC in Copenhagen.
Udinese’s only previous game against English opponents was a 2-0 home victory against Arsenal’s north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur FC in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage. Antonio di Natale put Udinese ahead from the penalty spot, Simone Pepe adding the second four minutes from time.
Arsenal are unbeaten in ten European home games (nine wins, one draw) since a 3-1 loss to Manchester United FC in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League semi-final. During that run they have scored 34 goals − an average of over three a game − and conceded seven.
Udinese have gone four away games without a win since beating FC Spartak Moskva 2-1 in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage, a run comprising three defeats and a 2-2 draw at KKS Lech Poznań. Udinese’s 2008 defeat of Tottenham was the start of a five-game unbeaten sequence at home in Europe, 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 away games – 3-1 at FK Partizan in last season’s group stage. They have lost their last three games on the road. Arsenal won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 1994, and have reached the final of the other two major club competitions (UEFA Cup, 1999/2000 and UEFA Champions League, 2005/06), losing both. 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 goalless draw in Copenhagen.
Arsenal have come through a qualifying round to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for four of the last seasons, going straight into matchday one last term. 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 and miss out on second place. That campaign brought the club’s only previous appearance in UEFA Champions League qualifying. They beat Sporting Clube de Portugal 1-0 away and 3-2 at home in the third qualifying round.