Arsenal take on Paris Saint-Germain on the opening night of the Champions League on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes, looking to continue their unbeaten run of 12 away games against French clubs in European competition (W8, D4).
Arsenal head into their opening round tie off the back of a tight injury time win against Southampton at the Emirates. The performance was somewhat underwhelming, with several key players rested, making the win all the more impressive.
PSG and Arsenal’s only previous fixture came in the 1993/94 Cup Winners Cup semi-finals; a 2-1 Arsenal win on aggregate including a 1-1 draw at PSG.
Paris SG comes into the fixture off the back of a League winning campaign, and a loss to Manchester City in last years Champions League Quarter-final. PSG’s recent record includes away and home wins over Bastia and Metz respectively, followed by a loss to Monaco, and a draw against Saint-Etienne on Friday night.
Arsenal’s current form is almost the reverse of PSG’s, having lost their opening game, drawn away at Leicester, followed by two wins against Watford and Southampton. The positive against Southampton will be that Arsenal were able to grind out a win, with Sanchez and Giroud both playing only later on in the second half, and Granit Xhaka having had the whole match off.
Going into the fixture on Tuesday night, you would think all three of the aforementioned will be starters, and ones that are well rested giving their involvement off the bench. Xhaka vs. Watford looked like the defensive midfielder Arsenal have been crying out for since the days of Gilberto and Viera. Strong, composed, technically brilliant, with a highly efficient range of passing.
Alexis enters the opening round match having scored three goals and assisted five of Arsenal’s last 13 games in the Champions League, and Arsenal fans will be hoping he continues his determined and skilful performances that they are so used to seeing in the past two seasons.
Arsenal’s creative problems against Southampton were down to the centre-midfielders, the lack of creation of triangles in the middle of the pitch, preventing them from establishing dominant possession in the opposition half, and it is likely that Xhaka’s return, alongside Giroud and Alexis will provide the firepower to counter a tricky PSG side.
Predicted Line-up: Petr Čech; Héctor Béllerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal; Granit Xhaka, Santi Cazorla; Alex Iwobi, Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez; Olivier Giroud