FC Basel v Arsenal: UEFA Champions League Match Preview
FC Basel host Arsenal in the final round of matches in the UEFA Champions League group stages, at St. Jokob-Park tonight (7.45 pm kick-off UK time)
The Gunners have already qualified from Group A, along with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), for the last 16 of the competition.
Arsenal have been knocked out in the round of 16 in each of the last six seasons and have finished second in their group in each of the past five.
However, this season finishing second may not result a harder tie in the first knockout stage.
Going into the final matchday, Porto, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Benfica are all second in their respective groups.
PSG are favourites to top Group A after securing a 2-2 with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago.
That bettered Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with PSG in Paris in September.
It puts PSG on top of the group on the head-to-head results with Arsenal, above on away goals in the two matches.
A win for PSG at home to Ludogorets tonight will clinch them top spot in the group.
The Gunners are reliant on the Bulgarian minnows taking points off the French champions at the Parc des Princes tonight.
If that happens then Arsenal must better PSG’s result against Ludogorets to progress as Group A winners.
Arsenal go into tonight’s contest boosted by the 5-1 Premier League away win to West Ham at the London Stadium on Saturday.
Basel suffered their first domestic league defeat of the season away against Young Boys at the weekend, but retain a commanding points lead at the top of the table.
The Swiss Champions harbour hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League; to do that they must better the result of Ludogorets against PSG.
Basel will hope Ludogorets are beaten by PSG and that they then pick up at least a point against Arsenal.
Arsenal have won all five of their previous competitive encounters with Swiss clubs.
Basel though have won their past three Champions League home games against English clubs. And have lost only two of their past eight Champions League home games, those defeats coming against Real Madrid and PSG.
If Arsenal don’t lose tonight it will be the first time they gone unbeaten in a Champions League group campaign since 2005-06.
Expect there to be goals tonight. None of Arsenal’s past 40 away games in the Champions League has ended goalless. Their most recent 0-0 was at Slavia Prague in November 2007
The sides only previous competitive meeting was in the reverse Group A fixture at the Emirates Stadium on the 28th September 2016. The Gunners won 2-0, with Theo Walcott scoring both goals in the 7th and 26th minutes.
It maintained Arsenal’s perfect record against Swiss sides in European competition. Five matches five wins.
Austrian striker Marc Janko and midfielders Matias Delgado from Argentina and Birkir Bjarnason from Iceland are the main attacking threats for the home side.
Arsene Wenger will have to decide whether Alexis Sanchez starts or is rested ahead of the Premier League fixture at home to Stoke City on Saturday. The temptation will be to play Sanchez, but given the busy forthcoming festive fixture list Wenger might rest the Chilean and start with Olivier Giroud or Lucas Perez.
“Arsenal are very efficient. I watched them against [West Ham] at the weekend. They were always in control and then really turned it on. They’re very dangerous going forward.
I’m more of a realist and I think we’ll need a bit of luck tomorrow. I don’t have the feeling that I need to learn from any particular previous games. I think we’ve played well so far but of course if we want to get anything from this game we’re going to have to be at our best. We certainly can’t make the same kind of mistakes we made at the weekend. If we can play at our best we can get a result but we need a bit of luck too.”
“We want to win the game, do our job, and you never know what happens in Paris. It doesn’t really look like a problem finishing second. We’ll see what happens with the final results, but it looks quite even. The advantage of finishing first is that you play the second leg at home, and in extra time you play an extra 30 minutes at home. We have a united squad, and sometimes I think that when a guy is doing well it’s more dangerous to stop him than keep him going. I haven’t decided on my team yet – I have another 24 hours to decide – but my main priority is to win.”
Geoffroy Serey Die and Renato Steffen are suspended. Mohamed Elyounoussisis is likely to start in place of Steffon, with Luca Zuffi or Alexander Fransson vying to replace Serey Die. Urs Fischer will most likely pick Zuffi, based on his performance on Saturday against Young Boys.
Francis Coquelin is suspended. Former Basel players Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny may both start in the Gunners midfield.
David Ospina will start in-goal, as he done in the five previous Champions League group matches in place of Petr Cech.
Olivier Giroud returns to the squad after missing Saturday’s Premier League win over West Ham, and last week’s EFL Cup defeat to Southampton.
Manuel De Sousa (POR)
Alvaro Mesquita (POR)
Paulo Soares (POR)
Ricardo Santos (POR)
Additional assistant referees
Fabio Verssimo (POR)
João Capela (POR)
Arsenal to get a 2-1 win, but it’s likely that they will finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain in the group.