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Karagandy eye spot in main draw

BERNE, Aug 26, 2013, Reuters: 22:36 IST
Shakhter Karagandy, a Kazakh mining town team based nearer Mongolia than UEFA headquarters in Switzerland, could add an exotic touch to the Champions League group stage if they can hold out against Celtic on Wednesday.

The team from the windswept, coal-mining town of Karagandy on the Kazakh steppe, take a 2-0 cushion to Glasgow for the second leg of their play-off tie, one of 10 being played over Tuesday and Wednesday to decide who joins the 22 teams already qualified for the group stage.

There is a lot at stake financially as each of the 32 teams in the group stage will receive a basic fee of 8.6 million euros ($11.53 million), according to UEFA, plus 1 million euros for each win and half that amount for each draw.

Arsenal should comfortably make the group stage for the 16th season in a row against a Fenerbahce team caught up in a match-fixing scandal while FC Basel, Zenit St Petersburg, Real Sociedad and Austria Vienna look set to join them.

Seven-times champions AC Milan, the most illustrious team in the action this week, also have a slight advantage against 1988 European Cup winners PSV Eindhoven, having drawn 1-1 away in the first leg. Milan cannot afford to miss out on the group stage and, worryingly, began their Serie A campaign with a 2-1 defeated at promoted Hellas Verona.

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