Arsenal v AS Monaco: Match Preview – UEFA Champions League last 16 first-leg
Arsenal go into tonight’s last 16 first leg Uefa Champions League tie with Monaco at the Emirates Stadium knowing they have an excellent chance of progressing to the last 8.
The Gunners have exited at this stage of the competition in each of the last four years.
Twice at the hands of Bayern Munich, and to AC Milan and Barcelona.
Monaco don’t have the European pedigree of those three, but they do need to be respected.
They topped their Champions League group to qualify for the last 16. Losing only one match and conceding only one goal.
Arsene Wenger is expecting them to be a tough opponent.
Speaking at his press conference yesterday, Wenger said.
“It’s an interesting game and I’m happy Monaco are back at the top-level but now I’m focused on the game,” he said.
“They are a disciplined team who are very strong in defence, well organised and dangerous on the break.”
Wenger though is confident that the Gunners have enough to see of Monaco over the two legs.
“We have had 17 consecutive seasons in this competition. ‘Easy’ is a word you need to ban in the Champions League.
“But we can be confident because we’ve won our games. We have the right commitment and spirit – but these are hard games.”
Arsenal have the attacking threat to cause Monaco problems defensively.
Olivier Giroud notched his 50th Arsenal goal in the 2-1 Premier League win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
It took his tally to 11 goals from 13 starts this season.
Giroud will be assisted by Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck in attack, with Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla providing the creative threat.
Monaco aren’t afraid of conceding possession to the opposition. They averaged just 44 per cent of possession in their 6 Champions League group matches.
Ex Chelsea veteran Ricardo Carvalho is Monaco’s key defender, but has been struggling with injuries this season.
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim is likely to play a 4-3-3 formation, with attacking full backs Fabinho and Layvin Kurzawa key counter-attacking threats for the French side.
Jeremy Toulalan is the key holding midfield player, and Joao Moutinho the main creative threat for Monaco.
The French side lost their star attackers in the summer. Radamel Falcao departing for Manchester United and James to Real Madrid.
Only four goals in the Champions League group stages, and the second-fewest shots of the 32 teams in the competition, indicates how much Monaco are missing those two.
They have only scored 25 goals in 26 matches in all competitions this season.
So where will Mocaco’s attacking threat come from tonight.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is a forward player with pace and trickery, who is also dangerous from free-kicks in and around the penalty area.
Dimitar Berbatov though will be the main danger to Arsenal. He has caused the Gunners problems in the past whilst playing for Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Fulham.
He has though scored just six times this season in all competitions.
Arsenal will know that despite his languid style, he has the ability to score or create a goal from very little.
Prediction: The key for Arsenal in progressing to the last 8 could well be not conceding tonight. The ideal result for the Gunners tonight would be to win 2-0. That would require being clinical in front of goal and producing a solid defensive performance.