After an intriguing 1-1 draw away at the Parc des Princes on matchday one, it’s finally time for Arsenal to host Ligue 1 champions Paris-Saint Germain, in a fixture that could very well settle who tops Group A and potentially gets an easier opponent in the last 16 after Christmas.
Wednesday’s visitors have a significantly stronger history in European competition over recent seasons when compared to Arsenal, which could prove beneficial in regards to big game experience.
With that being said, Arsenal are on a 17 match unbeaten run (all competitions) and their only loss of the season was on the opening weekend, a 4-3 defeat at home against Liverpool. A smash-and-grab draw against Manchester United on Saturday lunchtime has raised suggestions that perhaps the side’s mentality has changed recently, meaning they can still earn points without necessarily playing to the best of their capabilities – a welcome morale boost at this time of year.
In Tuesday’s pre-match news conference, Arsène Wenger complimented Unai Emery’s side but equally identified the fact that his own team have to “finish the job at home”.
“We played a draw there and now it is down to us to win the game. We have done the job in a convincing way. It is a luxury to be qualified after four games, if we finish [top the group] after five games that will mean we will have done the job really well.”
When asked for an update on Santi Cazorla’s fitness, Wenger replied with some promising news. “It looks to me that he is making good progress but he is not full-time training – it’s inflammation at the back of his Achilles. It will be two weeks before he is back.”
Olivier Giroud netted an important equaliser late on at Old Trafford, but the French forward has voiced his frustrations that opportunities to start are currently limited.
Wenger had this to say about the 30-year-old, who continues to polarise opinion: “Every week I leave top players on the bench and rotate. Olivier was out injured for a long time and is ready now. He is not forever on the bench, he will play games and start sometimes like everyone else.”
Per Mertesacker (knee), Danny Welbeck (meniscus), Chuba Akpom (back), Lucas Pérez and Hector Bellerín (both ankle) are all unavailable for selection with their respective injuries.
In addition to that, Santi Cazorla (Achilles) is still not back in full training so will not feature either. Alexis Sánchez’ exploits with Chile on international duty, as well as featuring against Manchester United on Saturday, have fuelled speculation that the talented forward will suffer from burnout if not afforded adequate rest, especially given the fact he sustained a hamstring injury and still played for both club and country over the past week.
It’s unlikely that he will start, and Olivier Giroud is expected to be rewarded with a place in the starting line-up. David Ospina, Wenger’s preferred Champions League goalkeeper, is set to be recalled whilst there is a potential battle for the left wing berth as both Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could start there on Wednesday evening.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Walcott, Ox, Özil; Giroud.
Wednesday’s visitors will be hoping that they have enough quality to snatch an important away victory, not least given the significance of the occasion itself.
Although they’ve still got Ludogorets to play at home, a loss here could see them finish second in a winnable group given their ability. A relatively slow start to proceedings domestically hasn’t halted their Champions League ambitions, but they face a tricky test in London as they’ve found out firsthand in three previous seasons against Chelsea.
In regards to team news, Javier Pastore (knee), Layvin Kurzawa (knock), Adrien Rabiot (thigh) and goalkeeper Alphonse Areola (ankle) are all doubts for contention whilst right-back Serge Aurier will miss the group stage tie after having his visa revoked by UK authorities.
Their last group stage defeat was a 1-0 loss at the hands of Real Madrid in November last year, and they’ll be hoping that they can avoid another loss this time around to extend their own unbeaten run into the double figures.
Possible XI (4-3-3): Trapp; Meunier, Marquinhos, Silva, Maxwell; Motta, Verratti, Matuidi; di María, Lucas, Cavani.