5 things about the Champions League playoffs

Aug 18 2014, 09:07 IST
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SummaryPrestige and a cash bonanza for reaching the Champions League group stage awaits 10 teams..

Prestige and a cash bonanza for reaching the Champions League group stage awaits 10 teams as the qualifying phase for Europe's top competition reaches its climax over the next two weeks.

But if the pressure rises going into the two-legged playoff round, Arsenal never shows it.

The English club is featuring at this stage for the seventh time in nine years and has won all 12 of its previous matches, maintaining its record of playing in every Champions League group stage since the 1998-99 season.

The biggest name in qualifying, Arsenal has been drawn against Besiktas with the first leg in Turkey on Tuesday.

Clubs from the other top leagues in UEFA's rankings - Athletic Bilbao (Spain), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Napoli (Italy) and FC Porto (Portugal) - are also joining in the fourth and final qualifying round that features 20 teams.

Each qualifier will earn a basic 8.6 million euros ($11.5 million) fee, plus bonuses for wins and draws and a share of television-rights money in a near 1-billion euro ($1.34 billion) payout.

Here are five things to know about this week's first-leg games:

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BA DANGER FOR ARSENAL

There will be a familiar face to Arsenal in Besiktas' starting lineup at Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, which is hosting the game while Besiktas' Vodafone Arena ground is being redeveloped.

Demba Ba is the Turkish team's top striker after his summer move from Chelsea and he has made a good start to his spell in Besiktas, scoring a hat trick to help it to a 5-2 aggregate win over Feyenoord in the third qualifying round.

Ba scored twice against Arsenal in December 2012 in his last game for Newcastle before joining Chelsea.

Arsenal has the greater threats up front, however, with Chile forward Alexis Sanchez moving from Barcelona in the offseason to join an attack that already boasts Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey.

Arsenal started the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday

''Besiktas had a convincing result against Feyenoord,'' Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, ''and so for us we have the luck to play the first game away.''

UNLUCKY NAPOLI

Napoli will be hoping for better luck in the Champions League this season ahead of its playoff against Athletic Bilbao.

The Italian side holds the unwanted record of having the most points of any team not to qualify from the group stage,

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