Arsenal are in a fine run of form domestically with six straight Premier League wins under their belt, but that have also got off on a sound footing in Europe. They relied on the profligacy of Edinson Cavani to get a 1-1 draw against PSG in their opening group game, but played some spellbinding stuff to dispatch Basel at the Emirates last time out.
Their 2-0 win over the Swiss side barely reflected their dominance, nor the quality of chances produced that night. Nevertheless, it was a satisfying 90 minutes’ work and puts the Gunners is a strong position in the group. Arsene Wenger’s reign has been dotted by embarrassing and kamikaze performances in Europe however, so they should guard against complacency as they host Bulgarian champions Ludogorets this evening.
They equipped themselves very well against Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool team in this competition two season’s ago, but anything other than a comfortable Arsenal win would be a surprise.
A late Alexis Sanchez equaliser salvaged a point in Paris and a first half brace from Theo Walcott saw off Basel as Arsenal blitzed them in a dazzling first-half. Maximum points against Ludogorets will set up crunch tie against PSG in London to decide who will top the group. Given the draws Arsenal have been handed after finishing second, they know how important that can be. The visitors got a credible point against Basel, and did take the lead against PSG; though the French giants did go on to the win the game.
Injuries and Suspensions
Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey are back in full training, but are still being held back. This is possibly for two reasons. Firstly, Arsenal have a run of fixtures this month that can be navigated without them, but some tougher games ahead in November. Secondly, neither had a full pre season due to exertions at the European Championship. Arsene Wenger might look to rest a few players, with Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs and Lucas Perez all possible incomings. Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are Wenger’s only long-term injury worries. David Ospina will continue as ‘cup goalkeeper’. Ludogorets attacker Jonathan Cafu should be available and will likely line up on the right.
There is a major gulf in quality between these two teams, and the pattern of the game will be dictated by Arsenal’s approach and mental application. If they can replicate their performance against Basel, in which they pressed their opponent intensely and shifted the ball at great speed, this could rack up a fair old score. If they are complacent and a bit slapdash, the night might prove more frustrating.
There are no real signs of that sort of performance though, and the bright lights of Europe have a tendency to bring out the best in Arsenal’s main attacking threats- Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Wenger could probably make five or six changes and win this game comfortably, but he tends to be a bit more conservative. It will be more or less the team that has been going well in the league, and we can’t envisage an upset in this game either.
Verdict: Home Win
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