Man Utd's potential Champions League rivals line up

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Van Gaal prepares for his and United's Champions League return
Van Gaal prepares for his and United's Champions League return

Manchester United could be facing up to a perilous Champions League play-off tie in August, as the list of potential opponents for Louis van Gaal’s side begins to take shape.

The draw for the final round of pre-qualifying for the Champions League group stages will take place on August 7th, with the two-legs of the ties that will offer the winners a lucrative place in the group stages of the competition set for August 18/19 and August 25/26.

Arsenal have been regular participants in the Champions League play-off round in recent seasons and have had more than a few scares en-route to the business end of the competition, yet Everton and Newcastle are among the English teams who have failed to come through play-offs to take part in Europe’s elite competition in recent years.

United looks set to be top seeds in the Champions League play-off draw, but that does not mean they will avoid a possible meeting with these dangerous rivals.

MONACO – This season’s Champions League quarter-finalists knocked Arsenal out on their improbable route to the latter stages of the competition and they face a third-round qualifying tie before securing their place in the play-off round, where United could lie in wait.

Monaco’s deficiencies were exposed by the more powerful attacking sides in the Champions League, but their defensive solidity could test United in the early stages of next season.

LAZIO – The Italian side could be seeded in the play-off round and would therefore avoid a potential meeting with United, but there is a strong chance that they will be outside of the top ranked sides Van Gaal’s side could then face a trip to Rome.

After securing a top three finish in Serie A this season, Stefano Pioli’s side would present United with an intimidating atmosphere in the away leg of a play-off tie.

SPORTING LISBON – Marco Silva’s Sporting were well off the pace in the Portuguese league this season, as they finished a distant third behind champions Benfica and Porto, but they do boast plenty of experience in European competition.

Sporting striker Fredy Montero is a threat if presented with the right service and they have just gone through the entire Portuguese season unbeaten on home soil.

CSKA MOSCOW – A trip to Russia is never easy and especially at a time of the season when United may be bedding in new signings and getting up to full speed.

Runners-up behind Andre Villas-Boas’s Zenit St Petersburg in the Russian league this season, midfielder Roman Eremenko is one of their scoring threats from midfield.

PANATHINAKOS – Greece is a lovely spot to head for if you have your eye on a summer holiday in mid-August, but it could represent a hot bed of tension for Van Gaal’s United if they are drawn against Pana.

The Greeks have won all but two of their matches on home soil in their domestic league this season, but their away form is less impressive.  

FENERBAHCE – Manchester United supporters have experienced some bruising trips to Turkey down the years and they may be keen to avoid a repeat trip if Fenerbahce navigate a way through to the Champions League play-offs.

Senegal striker Moussa Sow is their main man, after bagging a glut of goals in the Turkish league this season.