Although the Champions League Second Qualifying Round is still underway, the draw for the Third Round took place today and it has presented us with some very interesting matchups. The marquee matchup has to be FC Schalke 04 against Club Atletico de Madrid but the Arsenal – FC Twente fixture will garner much attention from the UK-based media. The Arsenal – FC Twente fixture will see former England manager Steve McClaren coaching in England for the first time since he was sacked from his national team duties. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of reception he receives in London.
Taking a look at the other highlight matchup, Schalke reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season but face a massive challenge in the re-tooled Atletico. Atletico will be seeking a return to the full competition for the first time since reaching the last eight in 1996-97.
Schalke general manager Andreas Müller was quoted by uefa.com as saying “This is the kind of fixture you would see in the last 16 or the quarter-finals.” I agree with that sentiment. These are two talented clubs and it will be a major disappointment to see one of these clubs eliminated so early on. However, that’s the nature of the competition and is just another reason why, in my estimation, the Champions League has become _the_ top competition in the soccer world.
The full listing of fixtures is posted below. I am going to wait until the second round is over before making predictions. Once the third round fixtures are clear, I will post an update along with my predictions on who will advance to the Group Stage.
2008/09 UEFA Champions League
Third Qualifying Round Fixtures
First leg: 12/13 August
Second leg: 26/27 August
Anorthosis/Rapid Vienna v Olympiakos
Vitoria Guimaraes v Gothenburg/Basel
Shakhtar Donetsk v Domzale/Dinamo Zagreb
Schalke 04 v Atletico Madrid
Aalborg/Modrica v Rangers/Kaunas
Barcelona v Beitar Jerusalem/Wisla Krakow
Levski Sofia v Anderlecht/BATE
Standard Liege v Liverpool
Inter Baku/Partizan v Fenerbahce/MTK Hungaria
Twente Enschede v Arsenal
Spartak Moscow v Drogheda/Dinamo Kiev
Juventus v Tampere/Artmedia
Brann/Ventspils v Marseille
Fiorentina v Slavia Prague
Galatasaray v Steaua Bucharest
Panathinaikos/Dinamo Tbilisi v Sheriff Tiraspol/Sparta Prague