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UEFA Champions League: PSG v Arsenal Preview
Our European football scribe takes a look at Tuesday evening's headline Champions League clash between PSG and Arsenal.
A huge encounter awaits, kicking off the European season in style. Arsenal and PSG are perennially the two biggest underachievers in European football. Arsene Wenger’s side have a terrible habit of drawing either Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the early knockout stages. They will recognize how essential it will be to finish top of the group and avoid another early exit. PSG, under new manager Unai Emery, have failed to ignite thus far in Ligue 1. They will be hoping that the return of Europe’s premier club competition will give their season a much-needed kick-start.
PSG v Arsenal | Tuesday 13 September | Parc des Princes | 20:45
To Win (90 Mins)
PSG 17/20 | Draw 51/20 | Arsenal 3/1
Unai Emery has got a bit of a defensive crisis on his hands at present. Serge Aurier has already ruled himself out of contention through injury while right-back Kurzawa picked up a hamstring injury. Influential left-back Maxwell is also unavailable while inspirational leader Thiago Silva is fighting a fitness battle of his own. Word around the campfire is that former Barcelona player Thiago Motta is likely to deputize in the left full-back position. This is all rather disconcerting when you consider Arsenal seem to be finding their stride in attack.
Perhaps even more concerning for the French champions is their lack of a goal threat. Zlatan’s absence has left a huge chasm in that side - I’m sure Zlatan would love the sound of that. Cavani hasn’t stepped up yet to fill it while new signing Ben Arfa has been disappointing since his arrival. PSG still boast a strong midfield that will test the defensive readiness of Xhaka and Cazorla. Di Maria and Moura have the ability to break late from midfield and will pose Arsenal many questions.
Arsenal’s injury situation is positively rosy compared to that of PSG. Gabriel Paulista is back to full fitness, bolstering their defensive options going into this encounter. Long-term absentees Mertesacker and Welbeck remain sidelined while Ramsey also misses out. I’m fairly certain that Walcott will be on the bench while the new centre-half combination of Koscielny and Mustafi continues to blossom. Lucas Perez looked quite sharp on debut and will also look to make an impact off the bench. Olivier Giroud will almost certainly come into proceedings to try and exploit a rag-tag PSG defense.
Xhaka and Cazorla are going to have to be very discipline on Tuesday night. This may not be the PSG vintage of previous years, but there are still huge threats interspersed throughout the side. Bellerin and Monreal will feel confident that they can exploit PSG’s vulnerability in the full-back positions. I still think that Arsenal need time to bed Mustafi in the side. He was hardly tested against a lackluster Southampton side and will come under far greater scrutiny this week.
I think that PSG’s defensive frailties will present a real opportunity for the Gunners. Having said that, PSG possess the players on an individual level that can create something out of nothing. Arsenal may enjoy large swathes of possession, but I expect PSG to be able to respond. This should be an open and exciting opening salvo for the Uefa Champions League.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets