Monday, 5 December 2016

Arsenal's Champions League Trip To Basel Previewed

Arsenal face a trip to Basel tomorrow night in their final Champions League group game. Despite being unbeaten and level on 11 points with PSG their chances of winning the group are somewhere very far south of slim. After the 2-2 draw at the Emirates a couple of weeks away they fell behind PSG on their head to head record as they had drawn 1-1 in Paris back in September.

The way the head to head rules work away goals come into play and PSG are ahead on that count. The only way they can finish ahead of PSG is if the French champions fail to win at home to Ludogorets and it's something that I just cannot see happening. Arsenal put six goals past them at the Emirates and I cannot see PSG slipping up with the prize of first place in the group so close at hand.

It means Arsenal will probably finish second in the group yet again and with second place comes a last 16 game against a group winner. At the moment the choices for them are Napoli, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Monaco, Borrusia Dortmund and Juventus, but not all of the groups are decided yet and a few of those teams might not win their groups. It would be a brave person to bet against Arsenal drawing Barcelona and I will not be at all surprised to see them come out of the hat together.

As for the game against Basel it seems Arsene Wenger is taking a full strength squad for the game and it looks like he will possibly play the strongest team he has available. The 5-1 win at West Ham on Saturday was a great result and it moved Arsenal up to second in the table behind Chelsea. There's a lot to be said for keeping a winning or unbeaten run going, but I suppose you could also say that run ended when Southampton put us out of the EFL Cup last week.

I wasn't too upset with that exit as it's a competition we're not going to win using just the reserves and fringe players. The value of resting players for that game was shown in the win at West Ham while our conquerors were beaten 3-0 at Palace after playing a strong team against us. Maybe a second string side would be the way to go against Basel with a Stoke team on a good run coming to the Emirates on Saturday.

I think the boss will go for a bit of a mixture and maybe rest one or two players who might just need a bit of recovery time before Saturday. I wouldn't be surprised to see Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Alex Iwobi play and of course David Ospina will play in goal as he has done in every other Champions League game this season. I doubt if Hector Bellerin will be risked even if he is fit to return as we need him back in tip top shape for the Christmas games.

Basel are no pushover on their own ground and they need to get at least a point from this game to have a chance of finishing third and qualifying for the last 32 of the Europa League. At the moment they're behind Ludogorets on their head to head records and can only beat them by taking more points off us than Ludogorets take off PSG. They have done very well against English teams over the last few years and will hope for more of the same in this game.

They've not as good as they were in previous season's though and we should be able to beat them even with a few changes to the team. Ideally I would like to see Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil rested, but we are pretty blunt in attack without them and I wouldn't be surprised to see them play. I hold no hope of PSG dropping points so our result won't really matter too much, but it would still be good to finish the group unbeaten with 14 points in the bag. As I said before the Southampton game last week though, it's more important to see all the players come through the game unscathed and ready to go over the festive period.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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