Our Champions League scribe previews Wednesday night's Group A tie between Arsenal and PSG.
The Emirates plays host to what essentially looks to be boiling down to a decider of whom holds sway over Group A. Arsenal and PSG have dominated proceedings in Group A since their week 1 stalemate at the Parc Des Princes. Arsene Wenger will be the first manager to tell you about the dangers of complacency in terms of finishing second in the group. The North-London side have made it something of a penchant to draw the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the early knock-out round. They hold sway with a superior goal difference, setting up a potentially exhilarating free-for-all between two sides assured of qualification.
Arsenal vs PSG | Wednesday 2 November | Emirates Stadium | 21:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Arsenal 5/4 | Draw 23/10 | PSG 21/10
Wenger has come under some criticism for the manner in which he has handled star striker Alexis Sanchez, especially after selecting him against United in the aftermath of that gruelling international salvo with Chile. Sanchez will likely start as Wenger aims to strike a hammer blow this week. He will likely resist the easy temptation to succumb to Giroud’s equalizer on Saturday, recognising that the mobility of PSG is far greater than Manchester United.
I think that the absence of Bellerin could be crucial, as Jenkinson threatened to be overwhelmed at the weekend. Santi Cazorla is also unavailable due to injury, joining the likes of Mertesacker, Perez and Wellbeck.
Xhaka and Coquelin will likely start in the holding roles in a typically Wenger 4-2-3-1 formation. They will have an immense task containing a fearsomely athletic PSG midfield. Zlatan often received the plaudits for their success in past seasons, but it was always the indefatigable zeal of the midfielders that allowed him that freedom. Motta, Verrati and Matuidi will test the width of Arsenal, forcing Walcott and likely Iwobi to track back. Ramsey had an anonymous afternoon at Old Trafford and may make way for the young gun Alex Iwobi.
Unai Emery’s side have been a bit schizophrenic in Ligue A, but their European form has been as consistent as ever. They have won their last three games and know that this is essentially a free hit for first place.
I expect Emery’s side to come hard at Arsenal, particularly targeting that vulnerable right-hand side. They will be without the industrious Javier Pastore, while it looks as if Angel Di Maria will make the starting eleven. It seems as if his extraction from the Nantes game was purely a precautionary measure. Adrien Rabiot will be unavailable after a hamstring injury marred his international debut. Kurzawa and Areola are the other players sidelined due to injury.
I feel that PSG may have an edge in those wider areas, especially deploying their expansive 4-3-3 system. Moura and Di Maria have explosive pace and have the ability to interchange off either flank. Cavani has been in good form for both club and country and has proved an able replacement for the talismanic figure that was Zlatan Ibrahimović. I’m also convinced that they may actually gain ascendancy in midfield, as Chelsea discovered on multiple occasions in seasons past.
Verdict: Total Over 2.5 Goals At 17/20
This seems like an absolute banker. PSG have scored two goals in eight of their previous ten Champions League appearances. They will be traveling to Arsenal knowing that there is no real point in playing it safe with qualification assured. Arsenal will look to bounce back from a dire performance at United that flattered Mourinho’s men. This should be a rollicking affair that may actually go the way of the Parisians.
Written by Damian Kayat for @Hollywoodbets