Champions League preview: Arsenal look to book place in last-16 with win over Lens

By on November 29, 2023


Arsenal return to Champions League action tonight as we look to book our place in the last-16 with a win over Lens at the Emirates Stadium.

It’s been a relatively straight forward return to Europe’s elite competition this season for Arsenal. After being pitted in a favourable group that contained Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven and Lens, we have amassed three wins from our four games so far. We kicked things off with a comfortable home win over PSV and beat Sevilla home and away, including a routine 2-0 win over the Spaniard’s three weeks ago.

The only slip came away to Lens in our second group game. After taking an early lead, Arsenal switched off and allowed the hosts to score twice to complete a shock win. Arsenal still sit top of Group B, four points clear of Lens and PSV, so a draw tonight will be enough to secure safe passage to the knockout stages of the Champions League. However, Mikel Arteta will want to avenge the loss in France to secure top spot with a victory on home soil this evening.

Lens head to London in decent form themselves. They beat Clermont Foot 3-0 away at the weekend having edged out Marseille 1-0 in their previous Ligue 1 game. Those results extended their unbeaten league run to eight games with their last defeat coming back in mid-September. However, a 1-0 loss away to PSV earlier this month has made life difficult in the Champions League and Lens now need a positive result against Arsenal to boost their hopes of making it through to the knockout rounds.

It’s far to say that Arsenal haven’t been at their free-flowing best yet this season, but we’re still grinding out results. A perfect example of this came at the weekend when we struggled to break Brentford down only for Kai Havertz to come off the bench to score a late winner. The goal should give the German a huge boost in confidence as he’s endured a difficult start to life in North London following his big-money move from Chelsea in the summer.

The victory at the Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday took Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table after Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw by Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. We’re now one point clear of City and two ahead of Liverpool and Aston Villa, so it’s great to see us sitting top of the table despite not playing our best football yet.

Arteta has made us more solid this season but we need to find the right balance as our attack is yet to hit top gear. Injuries have played their part so with Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard now all fully fit, hopefully we can start to see Arsenal firing on all cylinders starting with a resounding win over Lens tonight.


Arsenal game are almost always officially sold-out such is the demand to see us play at the Emirates Stadium. There should be some tickets available on the exchange with season ticket holders not able to go, but it’s never easy to secure them.

If you want to get your hands on a last minute ticket for the game, you can buy sold-out Champions League tickets at trusted reseller seatsnet.com. If that doesn’t work out, you can always follow all the action on TNT Sports – providing you’re a subscriber.

Injuries woes easing

Arsenal were handed a huge double boost at the weekend with Jesus and Odegaard both returning to action against Brentford. Jesus has had a tough time with injuries this season and missed our last five games before the international break due to a hamstring problem. The striker made his return to action by playing 90 minutes for Brazil against Argentina last week and came through the Brentford game unscathed, so he’s available for selection tonight.

Odegaard has also been on the sidelines lately due to a hip injury while he also missed Arsenal’s three games before the break due to concussion after taking a ball to the head in training. He also missed both of Norway’s games but was back in the starting eleven for Arsenal against Brentford and is in contention to face Lens.

Ben White is also pushing for a recall after only being named on the bench against Brentford having recovered from a knock. However, Arteta confirmed some disappointing news on Fabio Vieira as the midfielder is facing a few weeks on the sidelines after undergoing groin surgery.

Vieira now joins Thomas Partey on the treatment table with the Ghana international continuing his recovery from a thigh injury. It’s been a hugely frustrating campaign for Partey and he’s not expected to return until 2024. Emile Smith Rowe is also out for the foreseeable future with a knee injury while Jurrien Timber is unlikely to play again this season due to a serious ACL injury.

For Lens, they’ve received a major boost as Kevin Danso is fit to return from a foot injury. However, they’ll be without Morgan Guilavogui after he was sent off against PSV while Jimmy Cabot and Wuilker Farinez are also unavailable.


The big question is whether Arteta will take the opportunity to rest some of his key men ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Wolves. We only need a point to qualify from Group B and we should have enough quality in the squad to rotate tonight and still beat Lens. I’d like to see the likes of Jacub Kiwior, Jorginho and Eddie Nketiah given a run out with William Saliba, Odegaard and Jesus protected.

However, I don’t think Arteta will take too many chances and will still go with virtually a full strength team. We should see White come in at right-back with Takehiro Tomiyasu potentially moving to left-back to give Oleksandr Zinchenko a breather. We may see Martinelli or Saka rested with Leandro Trossard playing out wide, while Havertz is likely to return after his heroics off the bench at the weekend.

This is the line-up I think we’ll see Arteta go with:

Raya; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tomiyasu; Rice, Havertz, Odegaard; Saka, Jesus, Trossard


We can’t take Lens too lightly as they proved in the reverse fixture that they can be a dangerous side who have the quality to cause us problems. However, we were the masters of our own downfall in that game as we looked comfortable before gifting them an equaliser.

At the Emirates, I’m confident we’ll have far too much quality and should ease to a routine win to book our place in the last-16 as group winners. Arsenal 2-0 Lens