The Gunners have already secured safe passage to the knockout stages of this season’s Champions League after three wins and two draws from their five matches so far. They do however sit second in Group A behind Paris Saint-Germain thanks to the head-to-head rule, and with the Parisians facing a home game but nevertheless a test at home to plucky Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad, Arsenal will still be needing a win in Switzerland against Basel if they are to harbour any realistic hopes of usurping top spot from Ligue 1 champions PSG.
If PSG so much as match Arsenal’s result, then the Gunners are guaranteed to finish second. A PSG slip-up at the Parc des Princes and an Arsenal win at St. Jakob Park however would be enough to see Arsene Wenger’s men progress as group winners. Having already come away with a 2-0 win over the same opposition at the Emirates earlier in the campaign, the Gunners will go into this one full of confidence as they hope to leapfrog their French counterparts on Match-Day Six.
Despite proving a handful for stronger opposition in Europe in recent years, this latest Champions League campaign has been a poor one for Basel. They have secured only two points in Group A, which have come from two draws against fellow minnows Ludogorets. They were on the receiving end of a 2-0 defeat by Arsenal upon their visit to North London and were soundly beaten 3-0 by PSG away from home, but were unlucky to have a point snatched away from them by the Parisians at St. Jakob Park, where the group leaders salvaged a 2-1 win. The Swiss have had a better time of it domestically, winning four of their last five league games, but did taste defeat to rivals Young Boys at Wankdorf (Stade de Suisse) last time out.
Basel lie bottom of Group A via the head-to-head rule, and need to better Ludogorets’ result against PSG to have any hope of continuing their European exploits in the Europa League, a place in which will go to the team finishing third. So the Swiss side still have something to play for against the Gunners, meaning Wenger’s men might not have it all their own way in North West Switzerland on Tuesday night. It’ll take a big improvement in European form for the Swiss champions to do it however, they have failed to win their last seven in the Champions League, whilst Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five games in the competition.
The Gunners have of course already qualified for the latter stages following two draws against PSG, a win over Tuesday’s opponents and two victories over Ludogorets, the most recent win being a 3-2 epic in Sofia, when Arsene Wenger’s Gunners rallied from two goals down to salvage victory at the Vasil Levski Stadion. Like Basel, they need to better the result of a group rival (in this instance PSG) to leapfrog them, but with Basel harbouring ambitions of their own and having put in a brave fight at the Emirates, it will undoubtedly be a tough game for Arsenal and a potentially tall order to overhaul their French rivals, needing an additional favour from Ludogorets in order to do so.
Their prospects of victory tonight however are encouraging. They remain unbeaten in this season’s edition of the competition, and have only tasted defeat twice in their 22 matches across all competitions this season, coming off the back of a 5-1 win in the Premier League at West Ham United on Saturday.
Ivory Coast international Serey Die returns for the Swiss side following the suspension that forced him out of Basel’s goal-less draw at Ludogorets last time out. Their main man up front Seydou Doumbia is fit, as are their danger men in midfield Birkir Bjarnason, Luca Zuffi, Matías Delgado and Renato Steffen. Taulant Xhaka is expected to play as the defensive screen in front of the Basel back four, facing off against his brother, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, in midfield. Norwegian and Austrian internationals Mohammed Elyounoussi and Marc Janko provide dangerous impact options on the bench.
Arsenal remain depleted but are expected to field a strong side nonetheless as they search for a victory that could still see them overhaul PSG at the top. Héctor Bellerín’s injury means that Gabriel Paulista could feature at right-back, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs making up the remainder of the defence. As has been the case in Champions League games, Petr Cech should once more make way for David Ospina in goal.
Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka are favourites to start as midfield anchors against their former club, with the atacking midfield trio likely to consist of Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey. Alexis Sanchez could drop to the bench to hand Lucas Perez a start and an opportunity to prove himself.
FC Basel 1893 predicted starting XI Arsenal predicted starting XI
Defender Manuel Akandji, midfielder Jean-Paul Boetius, and forward Kevin Bua are all rated doubtful for the hosts, but could still prove themselves fit for the visit of Arsenal. Basel boss Urs Fischer has no other injury or suspension concerns to contend with.
In contrast, Arsene Wenger’s list of absentees is far greater. Francis Coquelin is suspended, whilst Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker, Chuba Akpom, Héctor Bellerín, and Mathieu Debuchy are all ruled out through injury. In-form forward Olivier Giroud is a doubt.
Basel’s discouraging draw with Ludogorets last time out leaves them with an uphill battle if they are to overhaul the Bulgarians and claim third spot and a place in the Europa League. Despite going down 2-0 at the Emirates they made Arsenal work for their victory, and despite Arsenal having their own affairs at stake they won’t make it easy for the Gunners here.
Arsenal however need to better PSG’s result to top the group, and despite several absentees should have more than enough to get the job done against the Swiss here. Our call is FC Basel 1983 1-3 Arsenal.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Stuart MacFarlane.