Best Odds: 5/2
The ultimate battle for the first place in Champions League Group A takes place at the Emirates, where Premier League title contenders Arsenal take on Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain. With the reverse fixture having ended all square (1-1), the Gunners would remain in the driving seat even in case of a goalless draw.
Arsenal may have progressed from the Champions League group stage in each of last 13 attempts, but the problem is they were eliminated in the first knockout phase in six successive seasons. That is clearly the main reason why Arsene Wenger wants his side to progress from the top of their group and thus secure easier opposition in the next stage. The Gunners are definitely on the right track, having won three of four group fixtures, while holding Paris Saint-Germain to a 1-1 draw at Parc des Princes, but they also need to prove their worth in the return match. Arsenal have done pretty well this season, mounting a serious title challenge in English Premier League, although they have suffered a slight dip in form of late, sharing spoils with Spurs and Man Utd in their last two fixtures. The most important thing is that star forward Alexis Sanchez came through the Uruguay and Man Utd games unscathed despite only picking up a muscle injury few days before, and chances are that he will start against PSG as well. It is important to note that the Gunners have lost three of last seven home games in the Champions League (W4) with one of those coming against Monaco, but they have also managed to defeat the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates, which has got to count for something.
After scoring yet another important goal from the bench, Olivier Giroud is expected to be recalled to the side, with Alexis Sanchez moving to the wing.
Aaron Ramsey could be dropped after an ineffectual performance against Man Utd, while Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla and Lucas Perez all miss out.
Paris Saint-Germain have a similar problem to Arsenal when it comes to failure to meet expectations in the Champions League, although they have done a lot better than their next opponents. The Saints have reached the quarter-final phase four times in a row, and they were quite unfortunate not to qualify for the semis on at least two of those occasions. And while they had no problems dominating the domestic stage in recent years, they have faced stronger opposition this term, as both Monaco and Nice seem determined to push them all the way. A more demanding Ligue 1 campaign may be the reason why PSG’s Champions League performances have left something to be desired, but a victory at the Emirates would ensure the Saints remain on the right track. Unai Emery’s side have stabilised their form of late, recording successive wins over Lille, Basel, Rennes and Nantes, but the Arsenal clash will obviously be a different ball game. Paris Saint-Germain have done pretty well on European travels, winning four of last five away fixtures, although Chelsea are the only top side they defeated on the road in last two and a half years, while losing to Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City.
Angel Di Maria has made the trip to London despite struggling with a thigh problem, but he remains doubtful and could make way for Hatem Ben Arfa.
Javier Pastore and Layvin Kurzawa are definitely out, whereas first choice goalkeeper Alphonse Areola will undergo a fitness test.
Key Factors to Consider
- Arsenal are unbeaten in last 17 games (W12 D5)
- The Gunners lost three of last seven home games in CL (W4)
- PSG won four of last five away fixtures in CL (L1)
- Both teams scored in each of their only two meetings so far
- Arsenal were eliminated in Last 16 stage in last 6 CL campaigns
With both sides craving Champions League success and eager to secure the first place in the group, there will be a lot at stake when they square off at the Emirates. Considering that they are also pretty evenly matched at the moment, we expect to see another share of spoils.
Best Odds: 5/2
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