It’s now down to just five sides who Manchester United could face in the Champions League play-off round.
With the third qualifying round now done and dusted United’s fate in the next round has been narrowed even further.
Vienna beat Ajax to remove the possibility of United facing Sporting Lisbon while Shakhtar Donetsk were victorious over Fenerbahce to rule out what could have been an intriguing tie with the ex-United duo of Nani and Robin van Persie potentially facing their former employers.
The five teams the Old Trafford club could face are Lazio, Rapid Vienna, CSKA Moscow, Monaco and Club Brugge.
It’s not a disastrous selection for Louis van Gaal’s men to potentially face but the sides they will want to avoid in particular are Monaco, Lazio and CSKA.
Monaco made huge strides in Europe last season by reaching the Champions League quarter-final having been starved of continental action since the 2005/06 season. There, the Ligue 1 side lost out to finalists Juventus by just one goal on aggregate.
Lazio’s European record of late has not been quite as intimidating, last featuring in the Europa League in 2013/14 while the last time they played in the Champions League was back in 2007/08, when they were knocked out in the group stage, winning just two games.
The other big threat – CSKA – have the most experience of Champions League action of all the remaining five sides, playing in Europe’s top competition for the last two seasons, although they’ve only managed to win two group games in that time.
The 20-team draw for the play-off round will take place on Friday August 7 at 11am BST with the games to be played on the 18 or 19 of August (first leg) and the 25 or 26 August (second leg).
The draw for the Champions League group stages will then be made on Thursday August 27.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
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