AC Milan’s first competitive match of the season could also be one of their most important when they visit PSV Eindhoven for the first leg of their Champions League playoff on Tuesday.
The seven-times European champions have missed out on the group stage only once in the last 11 seasons and failure to qualify this term could quickly turn the heat back on coach Massimiliano Allegri, who clung on to his job during the summer.
Arsenal, aiming to reach the group stage for the 16th season in a row, visit Fenerbahce in another of the 10 ties while Huub Stevens returns to his old club as he leads PAOK Salonica against Schalke 04 and Olympique Lyonnais host Real Sociedad in a France-Spain contest.
PAOK are one of five clubs, alongside Ludgorets Razgrad, Shakhter Karagandy, Pacos de Ferreira and Austria Vienna, who are attempting to reach the group stage for the first time.
If Shakhter overcome former European champions Celtic, they would also become the first team from Kazakhstan to reach the group stage since the Central Asian nation joined UEFA from the Asian Football Confederation in 2002.
Dutch clubs are no longer the force they were in European competition but even so, Milan, third in Serie A last season, will not be relishing their trip to 1988 champions PSV, who have already played five games this season and won them all.
“It will be tough for Milan because PSV are a young team, who run a lot and want to play on the attack,” former Netherlands midfielder Mark van Bommel, who played for both clubs during his bruising career, told Milan’s website (www.acmilan.com).