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PREVIEW: Arsenal vs Napoli – Ozil Rested? Preferred XI & Prediction
Arsenal take on Napoli in Italy tonight looking to secure our place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
We have one foot in the last 16 following back-to-back victories over Borussia Dortmund and Marseille but unbelievably, there is still a chance we may crash out despite currently sitting top of the group on 12 points as we head into the final fixture.
Should Dortmund beat Marseille, as expected, we need to avoid a 3-goal defeat to Napoli to ensure we qualify from the group. A draw or win will secure not only qualification, but also top spot.
It’s a very difficult mindset for the players and we can’t go into the game thinking we can just ‘hold out’ for 90 minutes. We saw what can happen to the likes of AC Milan and Bayern Munich in recently years when they had that attitude.
We are good enough to get a result tonight, so let’s just play our usual game and everything will take care of itself.
Arsenal warmed up for the game with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Everton on Sunday and hopefully that won’t have taken too much out of the players.
Arsene Wenger has claimed he will not be taking any chances tonight and will name a full strength side, despite facing a tough trip to take on Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime.
I’ve read various differing opinions on this from journalists. Some say Wenger is bluffing and he’ll rest up to four key players, while others claim he’s going to name our best team. Perhaps the answer is somewhere in between, but we certainly won’t be seeing wholesale changes tonight.
Bacary Sagna is definitely out with a hamstring injury so Carl Jenkinson will continue at right-back. Sagna’s loss is a blow so Jenks is going to have to put in a huge display tonight.
We have no other injury worries to contend with so it’s the same squad as the weekend. Lukas Podolski didn’t travel, but we might see him on Saturday.
As for Napoli, the big news is that Marek Hamsik is out with a foot problem and I’ve read various reports on Twitter claiming that Pepe Reina has failed a late fitness test.
The back five should remain unchanged but midfield is an area of contention at the minute. We have a lot of options and it’s going to be interesting to see who the boss goes with.
I’d like to see Aaron Ramsey next to Mathieu Flamini in the middle of the park with Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere on the wings. Theo’s pace on the break will force Napoli to sit a little deeper than they may want to and prevent them from being able to put us under too much pressure.
Santi Cazorla has been a little disappointing lately so maybe it’s time for a rest, while I think Mesut Ozil should continue to support Olivier Giroud despite calls from several sections of fans to give him a breather. I really don’t think it’s wise to rest arguably your best player and it will send out the wrong message to the rest of the team.
This is the XI I’d like the boss to go with:
Betting & Prediction
It’s going to be a tense night and I expect the Italians will come flying out the blocks in search of an early goal but that team is more than capable of getting at least a draw tonight. Napoli shipped 3 goals at home to Udinese at the weekend and they have struggled to keep clean sheets all season, so we can certainly get ourselves an away goal which should see us through safely.
Prediction: Napoli 1-1 Arsenal.
What team would you play tonight? Do you think we’ll do enough to get through?