As Arsene Wenger this week claimed that he has been offered the role of PSG manager on three occasions, he will head to Paris for what is, on paper, one of the most exciting ties of the group stage phase of the Champions League. Unai Emery was the man chosen to replace Laurent Blanc this summer, and his new look side will face a tough challenge, though the Spanish manager has been appointed with European success a top priority given his past successes in the Europa League with Sevilla. In a fixture which will attract plenty of neutrals, Arsenal will be hoping to avoid what would be their first ever defeat on French soil in the Champions League.
PSG have not quite enjoyed the start that they were hoping for in Ligue 1 under Unai Emery with just seven points from four games, leaving them in seventh position in the league table behind the likes of Stade Rennais and En Avant de Guingamp. The Parisians are yet to score in the first half this season, but their second half strikes were enough to win their first two games against SC Bastia and FC Metz, who have enjoyed a superb start. Since then, things have gone down hill, suffering a disappointing 3-1 defeat at title rivals AS Monaco and then conceding a last gasp equaliser when welcoming AS Saint-Etienne at the weekend.
Arsenal have also had a slow start to the season, though they now finally seem to be getting going. After an action-packed home defeat to Liverpool on the opening day, the Gunners drew a blank against reigning champions Leicester. An away trip to Watford sparked life back into Arsene Wenger’s side, and their 3-1 demolition of the Hornets was followed up with a late victory over Southampton at the weekend, thanks to a rather gratuitous penalty decision in the dying moments. Whilst they have yet to prove a devastating attacking threat, the side have kept things tight defensively since the opening day, and will be looking to keep that up as they travel to France.
PSG predicted starting XI Arsenal predicted starting XI
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Unai Emery is expected to return to his favoured eleven for the arrival of Arsenal, having rested stars like Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria at the weekend as they drew with St Etienne. Adrien Rabiot is also expected to replace Blaise Matuidi in midfield, but an unchanged defence is likely given the few options available with a vast number of injuries to key players at the back. Jese and Hatem Ben Arfa will be amongst the options from the bench.
Olivier Giroud is expected to make his first start of the season for Arsenal having won the matchwinning penalty for his side after replacing summer signing Lucas Perez on Saturday, who may be forced to the bench. Alexis Sanchez should also return in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Arsene Wenger is likely to retain the same line-up that beat Southampton other than that, though Rob Holding may replace Laurent Koscielny if he fails to prove his fitness in time for the fixture.
Suspensions and Injuries
The side from the French capital are in the middle of something of a defensive injury crisis, with Maxwell out with a back injury, Thiago Silva forced out with a hip injury and Serge Aurier also unavailable with an ankle injury. Left-back Layvin Kurzawa is a doubt with a calf problem, but latest reports from France suggest that he will be risked by Unai Emery in what could be a vital game in the group stages of the Champions League. Forwards Javier Pastore and Hervin Ogenda are also expected to miss out, though the club have a wealth of attacking options to cover for their injuries.
The main question mark for the Gunners is over the fitness of Laurent Koscielny, though they were boosted by the news that the Frenchman trained with the rest of the team on Monday. However, influential midfielder Aaron Ramsey trained alone as he battles to overcome a hamstring strain. Alexis Sanchez will however return, having started on the bench against Southampton after returning from international duty late on Thursday. Gabriel Paulista is still no nearer a return from his ankle injury, whilst Carl Jenkinson and Yaya Sanogo remain out of action and Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker are out until Christmas with long-term injuries.
Neither side will be looking forward to this tie as both are still warming up before they get going this season, and they are likely to cancel each other out with neither side looking like scoring many. Two of Arsenal’s five goals in their last three games have come from the penalty spot, while PSG’s forwards have only managed three goals from four games so far this season, one of those also from the spot. A low scoring draw is our bet for this one, and neutrals may well be disappointed by the quality of what should really be one of the most exciting ties of the round.