Arsenal are gearing up for their first Champions League fixture of the season this evening – a very exciting occasion for fans of the north London club.
But the Gunners will begin their European campaign under the toughest of circumstances, travelling away to last season’s quarter-finalists PSG in a group also containing Swiss champions FC Basel and Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets.
Indeed, the Parisians are so dominant domestically, winning four Ligue 1 titles in a row, that pretty much every aspect of the club – transfer policy, managerial appointments, tactics – is aimed towards winning the coveted Champions League title.
Although Arsenal boast plenty of top draw talent, they could resultantly be up against it at Parc de Princes tonight – so it’s crucial they come out on top in the key individual battles.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at five Arsene Wenger’s boys need to win if they want to come away from tonight’s game with at least a point…
Thiago Silva looks set to come back into PSG’s starting XI tonight after missing the opening weeks of the season, having been included in Unai Emery’s 18-man squad according to Le Parisien.
The Brazil international is widely viewed as the top centre-back in world football but could be suffering from a bit of ring-rust after returning from an injury lay-off.
The task of taking advantage looks set to fall to Olivier Giroud, who The Daily Star and The Week are both tipping to make his first start of the campaign following two substitute outings in the Premier League.
The Frenchman boasts an impressive three goals and one assist in five appearances against PSG and will be looking to improve upon a career-best five strikes in the Champions League last season.
Hector Bellerin’s overlapping runs have become a defining feature of Arsenal’s attacking play and there are few better forward-thinking young full-backs throughout European football, but the Spaniard’s defensive qualities will be tested more at Parc de Princes this evening.
Indeed, the right-back looks set to be up against former Manchester United star Angel Di Maria, who has caused continuous havoc in Ligue 1 since swapping Old Trafford for the French capital in summer 2015.
He’s averaged three created chances per match domestically this season – the highest rate of any player in the PSG squad, underlining his importance to the team.
With Olivier Giroud getting the nod up front, Alexis Sanchez looks set to return to his more habitual role of left wing after being deployed as a striker in the Premier League.
The Chile international was nothing short of fantastic for the Gunners in Europe last term, claiming three goals and five assists in seven appearances – the most set ups of any player involved in the Champions League.
That being said, PSG’s Serge Aurier is a talented full-back. He’s highly physical and will not only use that athleticism to counteract Sanchez’s in a defensive sense, but also give him something to chase going the other way.
An interesting battle of two playmakers who take up slightly different roles in their respective teams. Indeed, Mesut Ozil is your classic No.10 and has created in excess of two chances per game in the Premier League so far this season, in addition to popping up with a goal against Watford.
Marco Verratti, on the other hand, orchestrates from deeper-lying positions through his phenomenal long-range passing, launching attacks from the middle of the park.
Therefore, the duo could end up chasing each other’s shadow as they look to inspire some magic going forward. But Ozil must be wary; in addition to his creative qualities, Verratti is tenacious and scrappy.
Following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure to Manchester United, Edinson Cavani is now the star of the show at Parc de Princes.
He’s netted just once in three league appearances so far this term but the Uruguay international’s career record speaks for itself – 237 goals in 436 outings throughout spells with Danubio, Palermo, Napoli and PSG.
That being said, Arsenal boast one of the top defenders in world football through Laurent Koscielny, who possesses the pace and aerial ability to keep a lid on Cavani’s physicality.
The PSG star will be determined to prove he can fill Zlatan’s shoes, especially on the Champions League stage, but the Frenchman is certainly capable of keeping him out the game.