Arsenal and PSG have qualified for the knockout stages but their clash at the Emirates on Wednesday night could effectively decide who takes the top spot in Group A.
November isn’t the best month in the calendar if you are an Arsenal fan. In an almost cyclical journey of a domestic season, the Gunners kick-start their campaign on the wrong foot suffering a wake-up call in the opening game before they fashion an impressive run of performances that has their supporters flirting with ambitions of silverware only for it to subsequently take a beating during the penultimate month of the year.
Things haven’t kicked-off all that badly this time around with two draws dotting their progress in the Premier League so far, both of which came against Top 6 sides. And with knockout qualification secured in the Champions League, there aren’t any serious ramifications for Arsenal if they lose at the Emirates on Wednesday. But as a matter of confidence and principle, Arsene Wenger will be keen to admonish his side’s ‘November curse’ and establish their strong credentials for silverware.
That said, the Gunners’ visit to the Parc Des Princes early on in the season will indicate how PSG aren’t going to be pushovers by any stretch of the imagination. The French Champions outplayed Arsenal on the evening and were disappointed to come away with just a point after Alexis Sanchez equalized late in the game for Wenger’s side.
Team News and Tactics
Coming at the back of a 1-1 draw against Manchester United, Wenger has issues to tackle going into the crunch tie at the Emirates on Wednesday. The Gunners lacked imagination against a side that were organized in possession and in defence, failing to establish their style of play on the game. However, the fact that Arsenal managed to come away with a crucial point from Old Trafford despite their shortcomings on the day throws light on how Wenger’s side have managed to get away with favourable results even when the tide seemingly isn’t in their favour.
Santi Cazorla continues to remain sidelined due to injury and will be sorely missed in what is expected to be an engaging battle in midfield against the likes of Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta. Hector Bellerin, who signed a new 6 year contract with the club on Monday, is still out due to a groin injury and will have Carl Jenkinson take his place at right-back.
Lucas Perez, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck complete the list for Wenger who will also spare a thought over Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has featured in two crunch ties in the space of 72 hours for club and country while carrying a hamstring injury.
Sanchez has been the work-horse for the Gunners and has consistently delivered when called upon but his performance during the second half at Old Trafford may have suggested that he is due some much needed rest. Olivier Giroud, who scored the equalizer during the weekend, could be expected to start up front and give his side some much needed physical presence up-top against PSG’s mobile centre-backs.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ospina, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Iwobi, Ozil, Walcott; Giroud.
Unai Emery’s side haven’t had the best of starts to the 2016-17 campaign as they see themselves 3 points off the pace from the top of Ligue 1. The domestic league has never been a real cause for worry for Le Parisien with their galactic array of stars establishing a gulf of class between them and the rest of the league. However, it appears the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz in the summer has hampered their growth a bit. That said, the club still houses a host of talented stars who have the potential of winning the game on any given day.
Like Arsenal, PSG too have several question marks over the fitness of their players. Angel Di Maria left the pitch during the first half in the win against Nantes and his involvement against the Gunners is in doubt. Javier Pastore only returned to action from injury during the weekend but was hauled off once more after rupturing his knee while winning a penalty. Adrien Rabiot suffered a muscle injury during his international debut with France and is hence expected to miss out on the Champions League clash. The involvement of Aphonse Areola and Layvin Kurzawa is also in doubt given that their yet to recover.
In a last minute shocker for PSG, Serge Aurier was denied a visa by the UK and hence is ruled out of the crunch tie. The decision will obviously come as a disappointment for Emery whose side are plagued by numerous injuries as it is. The absence of Aurier could mean Thomas Muenier could get a look into the side at right-back.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Trapp, Muenier, Marquinhos, Silva, Maxwell; Verratti, Motta, Matuidi; Di Maria, Cavani, Lucas Moura.
- PSG have scored at least 2 goals in 8 of their last 10 matches in the UEFA Champions League.
- Both sides have won their last three games in the Champions League and will be looking to get one over each other after settling for a draw in the Parc Des Princes last time around.
- Olivier Giroud has scored 7 goals from his last 8 shots on goal for Arsenal highlighting his credentials for the crunch clash.
- Arsenal have kept clean sheets in both their home games so far this season while they have conceded three on the road.
- Five of PSG’s nine Champions League goals have come on their travels.
Player to watch out for
Arsenal: Olivier Giroud
The game at Old Trafford was evidence of why Giroud could prove to be a key proponent of Arsenal’s attack against sides that have organized defence or possess physical and mobile centre-backs. The Frenchman’s penchant for winning the aerial battle will work wonders for Wenger if they can provide him with the service that Oxlade-Chamberlain did to conjure up the equalizer against Manchester United.
PSG: Marco Verratti
It’s expected to be a cracking midfield battle between the likes of Granit Xhaka and Marco Verratti on Wednesday and the tie could be decided based on who takes the cake in the end. Verratti has been an indispensable member of the French champions’ set up and with Adrien Rabiot injured, he will be expected to step-up and deliver against the Gunners.
Arsenal 2-1 PSG
Wenger’s side will have learnt a lesson or two from their trip up to Manchester during the weekend and given the necessary changes, his team have the quality to overpower a PSG side plagued by injuries all around. Arsenal will want to improve on their defensive performance if they are to fancy their chances against a deadly PSG attack. The North Londoners shipped two goals against lowly Ludogorets in their previous Champions League tie but given their impressive defensive record at home, that isn’t something they’ll look too deep into.
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