Arsenal head to face Italian club Napoli in the final game of the Champions League group stages this evening.
The Gunners only have to avoid a defeat by less than three goals to progress to the last 16, but I think Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will be looking to finish the group with a flourish.
Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League knockout stages on ten consecutive occasions and look set to make it 11 this evening.
Qualifying from a tough group would be an achievement in itself, but winning it would be an even bigger achievement.
The Gunners will qualify if Dortmund fail to win in Marseille or Dortmund win in Marseille and Arsenal avoid a defeat of three goals in Naples. A draw would be enough to take Arsene Wenger’s men through as group winners.
The Gunners should be looking to win the group, as it may mean a slightly easier draw in the last 16 of the competition. The home side just have to better Dortmund’s result in Marseille to make the knockout stages, easier said than done though.
At the moment Arsenal are the form team compared to their Italian opponents. The Gunners may have drawn 1-1 with Everton on Sunday, but Wenger’s men had picked-up four wins out of the last five in all competitions prior to the draw with the Toffees.
The men from north London have won seven out of their last eight Champions matches, keeping an impressive six clean sheets in that period.
The home side seem to have been going through a rough patch of form in recent weeks. The Azzurri have lost three out of their last six games in all competitions, including a 3-1 defeat at Dortmund in this competition.
Their patchy form has led them to slip eight points behind Serie A league leaders and champions Juventus in the race for the Scudetto. Last time out Rafa Benitez’s team could only draw 3-3 with midtable Udinese at the Stadio San Paolo.
The men from Naples have also failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 12 European ties in both Europa League and Champions League. Star striker Gonzalo Higuain has never scored against an English team in Champions League.
Arsenal will come up against Gonzalo Higuain this evening, as the striker looks to put that record straight. The Argentine was a reported summer transfer target of Arsene Wenger’s and it was believed that he came close to joining the men from north London.
However, the talented striker ended up moving to Naples from Real Madrid instead and he has been a success in Italy so far. Higuain has struck 10 goals this season in 18 appearances in all competitions since his arrival from Los Blancos.
The former-River Plate striker missed the reverse fixture at the Emirates, where the Gunners triumphed 2-0. The Italian team should be a completely different prospect with the Argentine leading their attack.
Both these teams are exciting to watch when they are on form. The Gunners have the likes of Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, who are all matchwinners. The home side have Higuain, Spanish winger Jose Callejon and highly-rated fellow winger Lorenzo Insigne.
With all the attacking talent on show this should be a cracker of a game, although the Arsenal defence have been in superb form of late, so the Azzurri may find it difficult to break through the Gunners rear-guard.
It seems that that baring a disaster that Arsenal are guaranteed to make it to the knockout stages of the Champions League, for yet another season. The Gunners team has shown a greater maturity in their performances this season and it has shown in the results they have achieved both at home and abroad.
Despite form favouring the visitors, Napoli are actually slight favourites for victory in this one at odds of 13/8. Arsenal are odds of 9/5, while the draw is odds of 5/2. The draw may be the best bet in this one, as neither sides odds are particular attractive.
Will Arsenal win against Napoli?