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Preview: Arsenal v Monaco, Team News, Line-Up & Prediction
The Champions League returns to the Emirates tonight as we host Monaco in the first leg of our last 16 tie.
Let’s be honest, we were all delighted when we got Monaco in the draw and rightly so. They are arguably the weakest group winner we could have faced and having qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 15th year in a row, this is an excellent opportunity for us to progress to the last 8 for the first time in five years.
However, that doesn’t mean we should be taking anything for granted. They are still a decent side who have a phenomenal defensive record both domestically and in Europe.
They’ve conceded just 7 Ligue 1 goals this season and let in just 1 goal in their 6 group stage games against Bayer Leverkusen, Zenit St Petersburg and Benfica. Their attack is pretty pathetic but there’s no denying these boys know how to keep clean sheets.
We don’t always do well against sides who defend first, attack later. Typically, Arsenal prefer to face a side who like to play and attack us leaving gaps at the back for us to exploit. So I’m personally not expecting a rout this evening and think it’s going to be a very cagey game.
Arsene stressed at his press conference yesterday that it’s important WE don’t concede in the opening 30 minutes as we’ve done in each of the last four years, so I think we’ll start fairly cautiously and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 0-0 at half time.
However, as long as we apply ourselves and keep going, we should be able to break them down and I’m still more than confident we’ll get the job done over the two legs.
Jack Wilshere is unlikely to feature tonight as Arsene rested him from training yesterday. There hasn’t been any set back but the boss just wants to be cautious with him after recently returning from ankle surgery.
Aaron Ramsey, Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta remain out but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be back in the squad after returning to full training last week.
Monaco have some injury worries to deal with as influential full-back Layvin Kurzawa and winger Yannick Carrasco both picked up knocks at the weekend while Jeremy Toulalan is suspended.
Ricardo Carvalho and Andrea Raggi have made the trip but remain doubts through injury, while Tiemoue Bakayako and Lacina Traore are both certain to miss the game.
As I’ve said many times in recent weeks, I’d prefer to see Wojciech Szczesny return as our No.1 as I’m not yet convinced by David Ospina, while I’d prefer to see Kieran Gibbs start ahead of Nacho Monreal at left-back. Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck is a tough one but I’d personally opt for Theo on the right.
But in reality, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arsene play Ospina, Monreal and Welbeck tonight.
As previously stated, I think it’s going to be a far more cautious game than some are expecting and Monaco will almost certainly be coming to pack the defence, look for a 0-0 and hope to snatch a goal on the break or from a set piece.
However, with the attacking talent we have available and being at home, I’d still expect us to find a way through and I can see us grabbing a couple of second half goals for a 2-0 win.
Arsenal 2-0 Monaco