Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal will be hoping to guide Manchester United to the group stages of the Champions League Getty Images

Just over 24 hours before the the curtain is raised on their Premier League campaign, Manchester United will learn who stands between them and their first games in the Champions League group phase in two years.

Uefa's headquarters in Nyon will play host to the draw for the Champions League play-offs, with 20 teams making up 10 ties that will determine the remaining names in Europe's premier club competition.

Following the conclusion to the third qualifying round on 4 and 5 August, United are now aware of their potential opponents via the league route for the two-legged ties taking place later this month.

AS Monaco, Rapid Vienna, Club Brugge, CSKA Moscow and Lazio are the possible obstacles for Louis van Gaal's side. But which teams should the Old Trafford club feel confident of beating and which would they prefer to evade? IBTimes UK guides you through United's upcoming challenge.

AS Monaco

Stephen El Shaarawy
Stephen El Shaarawy led Monaco into the play-off round Getty Images

The convincing 7-1 dispatching of Young Boys sees Leonardo Jardim's side take their place in the play-off stage after the principality reached the quarter-final in last term's competition, knocking out Arsenal along the way.

Having scaled back following their previous deluge of spending, Monaco are a shadow of their reputation in the continent. Stephen El Shaarawy has joined on loan from AC Milan to cover for Radamel Falcao's move to Chelsea, but the Italian may be forced to plough a lone furrow this term.

Much of the rest of the squad is made up of solid professionals and cast-offs from Europe's biggest sides, best summed up by former Chelsea and Real Madrid stopper Ricardo Carvalho's role the heart of their defence.

Rapid Vienna

Robert Beric
Robert Beric has been on an impressive recent goalscoring run Getty Images

The Austrian giants are seeking just a second appearance in the Champions League proper since 2000. Having provided the shock of the third qualifying round by knocking out Ajax with a 3-2 win in Amsterdam, pushing Sporting Lisbon into the seeds, Rapid require another heroic effort to reach the group stage. Zoran Barisic's side might be on paper the weakest of the five potential opponents for United, but they should not be underestimated.

Last season's top scorer Robert Beric is the primary threat, and his goals in both legs against Ajax proved influential as Rapid stunned the Dutch side. Having previously plied his trade with Marbior and Sturm Graz, it is with Rapid where the 24 year old has flourished, with his physical presence making him among the most dangerous forwards outside the top leagues in Europe.

Club Brugge

Michel Preud'homme
Michel Preud'homme is at the helm of one of the play-offs' minnows Getty Images

Panathanikos were swept aside over two legs to put Club Brugge into the play-off phase, as they chase a first Champions League appearance since the 2005/06 season, when they were paired with Bayern Munich and Juventus.

United potentially await in a daunting tie for the Belgian club, who have not won a domestic league title since their last bow in Europe's premier club competition – having fallen way behind Anderlecht in the pecking order.

Perhaps the stand-out characteristic of Brugge is their manager Michel Preud'Homme, a former goalkeeper who represented Belgium in two World Cups. His two seasons in charge have seen him develop a 60% win rate but they are yet to readdress the unbalanced domestic league.

CSKA Moscow

Igor Akinfeev
Igor Akinfeev is key to any CSKA progress in the tournament Getty Images

While many of their counterparts in the play-off draw have had a brief recent flirtation with the Champions League group stage, the club from the Russian capital have a good recent relationship with Europe's premier club competition.

Group stage appearances in each of the last two seasons, which have seen them unfortunately paired with Bayern and Manchester City, whom they beat at the Etihad Stadium last season, followed a quarter-final and last 16 showings. Real Madrid and Inter Milan contributed to their downfall on those occasions.

They have history against potential opposition United too, losing on home turf before an entertaining 3-3 draw at Old Trafford in the 2010/11 season. Nowadays, Igor Akinfeev and Alan Dzagoev are the star names of a squad dominated by Russian nationals.


Ravel Morrison
Will Ravel Morrison come back to haunt former club Manchester United? Getty Images

Having finished third in Serie A last season, Lazio are arguably the most dangerous obstacle between United and progress into the group stage.

The team from the Italian capital might have finished off the pace in the title race, but having spent nearly eight years away from the Champions League, last term's effort represented a significant improvement.

Stefan de Viji, Felipe Anderson and Miroslav Klose are the biggest names from the Lazio squad, but the a possible return for Ravel Morrison to English football and United – where he began his career – gives tasty subtext to a potential meeting.

More about Champions League 2015-16