After a hard-fought draw and impressive home win in our two group stage fixtures to this point, all signs are leading towards another Champions League victory for Arsenal.
Despite playing against lesser opposition in the form of Ludogorets, the Bulgarian side will look to better Basel’s performance at the Emirates from last month and come away with an encouraging result, which is unlikely but not impossible and Arsenal betting odds for this week certainly favour a home win.
Having drawn with the Swiss champions themselves on the first matchday, Ludogorets came away with some credit despite a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of PSG on September. They found themselves a goal ahead after 15 minutes through Natanael, but a quick-fire double from Edinson Cavani helped sink the hosts after Blaise Matuidi’s equaliser before the interval.
In the pre-match presser, Wenger revealed some positive news – no fresh injury issues after Saturday’s nervy 3-2 win over Swansea City.
The same matchday squad is available for selection, whilst updating those left in the dark about the fitness levels of Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Olivier Giroud (toe) by stating they are continuing their preparation and are “not far away”.
Theo Walcott has been in impressive form at club level this term, scoring twice more against Bob Bradley’s side on the weekend and Wenger had some words to describe the 27-year-old, who looks a completely different player to the one whose confidence was effectively shot with sub-par cameo displays off the substitutes’ bench.
“He lets the passion for the game come out of his body. He’s less restricted and is a completely different player.”
On Granit Xhaka’s contentious tackle, which was punished with a red card and subsequent three-match ban for the Swiss international: “It was not meant to hurt anybody. It was a late tackle to stop a counter attack. He is intelligent enough to analyse it.”
Francis Coquelin (knee) has already recovered from the injury which forced him to hobble off against Chelsea in September, and Wenger said that the team are “always going to have good players in the squad”, in order to compete for places in the starting eleven.
David Ospina is potentially in-line for a recall back into the starting eleven, having featured in both of our group stage fixtures up to this point. The 28-year-old goalkeeper, who will make his ninth Champions League appearance if he starts, excelled against PSG and will be hoping for another solid performance as regular minutes over the past two seasons has proven tough in amongst the presence of Petr Čech.
Francis Coquelin is expected to start in midfield, in place of Granit Xhaka, alongside Santi Cazorla as part of the midfield duo protecting the backline. The rest of the starting XI, bar one or two alterations, picks itself.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Iwobi, Walcott, Özil; Alexis.
Despite their tag as underdogs, there’s a real feeling that Ludogorets will embrace it once the Champions League anthem blares loudly in north London. They beat the likes of Red Star Belgrade and Viktoria Plzen just to qualify for the group stages, whilst boast a winning run of their own, seven in their domestic league. Their preferred formation is a 4-2-3-1, and the defeat to PSG will only encourage them to collectively improve for future fixtures like this upcoming one.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Stoyanov; Nathanael, Palomino, Moti, Minev; Anlcet, Dyakov; Vura, Wanderson, Marcelinho; Cafú.