Arsenal and PSG in shoot-out for Group A top spot
Arsenal and PSG in shoot-out for Group A top spot

Arsenal take on Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League at the Emirates Stadium tonight (7.45pm kick-off UK time).

The teams are level on points at the top of Group A going into tonight’s match, with both having already qualified for the knockout stage of the competition.

Whoever wins tonight will top the group and could face a potentially easier last 16 tie.

Arsenal, have suffered six consecutive Champions League last-16 exits, often after finishing second in their group and being forced to face the likes Barcelona or Bayern Munich.

PSG have reached the quarter-finals in each of the past four seasons of the competition.

But they have won only one of their eight away games against English opposition in all competitions (D3 L4). The French club are yet to beat Arsenal in European competition (D2 L1), and have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine competitive games against English clubs.

The reverse fixture in Paris finished 1-1 on the 13th September, Edison Cavani opening the scoring for the home side after 44 seconds and Alexis Sanchez netting an equaliser for Arsenal in the 78th minute.

Both sides have won their three Champions League Group A fixtures since their meeting in Paris to secure qualification to the last 16.

Arsenal were indebted to a late winning goal from Mesut Ozil in Matchday 4. Coming from two goals down to beat Ludogorets 3-2 in Bulgaria. Whilst PSG also required a last-minute goal from Thomas Meunier to seal a 2-1 win at Basel the same evening.

The Gunners have won their two Group A home games in this season’s Champions League, scoring eight goals and conceding none.

Both sides also boast impressive unbeaten records. Arsenal are 17 matches unbeaten in all competitions since the 4-3 loss to Liverpool on the opening weekend of the Premier League. A run of three draws in four matches has though seen Arsenal falter in their pursuit of a Premier League title challenge. PSG are nine games unbeaten in all competitions, winning eight of the nine.

Arsenal snatched a late equaliser through Olivier Giroud to draw 1-1, with Manchester United at the weekend. The result kept the Gunners in fourth place in the Premier League table, three points behind leaders Chelsea. Whilst PSG enjoyed 2-0 home win over Nantes at the weekend and currently sit third in Ligue 1, three points behind leaders Nice.

Head-to-Head

The only other meetings between the sides prior to being paired together for this season’s UEFA Champions League group stages came in 1994.

The sides met in the semi-final of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Arsenal progressed to the final 2-1 on aggregate over the two matches. The sides drew 1-1 in Paris on 29th March 1994, with Ian Wright scoring for the Gunners in the 35th minute and David Ginola equalising for the home side in the 50th minute. Arsenal won the second leg 1-0 at Highbury on the 12th April 1994, with Kevin Campbell netting the winner in the 7th minute.

Key Men

Arsenal will look to their dual talismen of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil for inspiration. Sanchez has scored eight goals in 16 club appearances this season. Ozil has scored four and assisted two of Arsenal’s last eight Champions League goals.  Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin will need to get control of the midfield to allow Sanchez and Ozil the opportunity to threaten the PSG defence.

After his late equaliser against Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday, Olivier Giroud is also pressing for a starting place.

As in the first match between the sides, Edison Cavani will be the chief goal threat for the Parisiens.  Cavani has scored 20 goals in as many appearances for club and country this season.

Grzegorz Krychowiak,  Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti will look to get a grip on midfield to allow freedom for PSG’s creative players such as Angel Di Maria.

The Managers

Arsene Wenger’s record against clubs from his home country of France with the Gunners is W11 D5 L3.

Arsene Wenger

“I believe the two teams have done the job until now,” Wenger said at his pre-match press conference yesterday afternoon.

“We have done it away from home now we have to finish the job at home. We played a draw there and now it is down to us to win the game.

We need to be serious offensively and defensively,” he added. “Both sides will be solid defensively. PSG like to have possession, we like to have possession.

The first round (a 1-1 draw at the Parc de Princes) was a very open and a good game. I hope that will be the case tomorrow night.”

Asked about the importance of topping the group.

“It would be important,” Wenger added.

“We have created momentum but have been stuttering a little bit at the moment. We want to strengthen that momentum again with wins.”

Unai Emery

“First of all, it was important to qualify for the last-16, Emery said at his pre-match press conference last night.

“Now, we want to finish top. It’s important for me and the team, to test ourselves at this level. Our recent results have been very positive. Playing Arsenal is a very good thing, for the fans as well who like to see good games. Tomorrow I want us to play well. We will play true to our philosophy.

We have worked hard and watched Arsenal, studied their last game against Manchester United, for example. Tomorrow, I want to see a team with character and players that play to their full potential. All the players are motivated and have to show it on the pitch. I want to see a big performance. But we have prepared well and I’m optimistic.”

Team News

Arsenal

David Ospina will replace Petr Cech as Arsenal’s Champions League goalkeeper.

Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott both missed training yesterday, but are expected to be fit

Hector Bellerin (ankle) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) are both out injured

Paris Saint-Germain

Serge Aurier will miss the match after having his visa revoked by UK authorities. He was sentenced to two months in jail in September for elbowing a police officer.

Angel Di Maria has travelled with the squad to London despite being substituted after 36 minutes of PSG’s last match with Nantes.

Layvin Kurzawa, Hervin Ongenda, Javier Pastore and Adrien Rabiot are all missing from PSG’s squad that travelled to London

Match officials

Referee

Felix Brych (GER)

Assistant referees

Mark Borsch (GER)

Stefan Lupp (GER)

Fourth official

Jan Seidel (GER)

Additional assistant referees

Bastian Dankert (GER)

Marco Fritz (GER)

Prediction

Arsenal to win 2-1 to secure top spot in the group.

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