Champions League returns: Could this be Arsenal’s year?

By on February 13, 2024

The Champions League returns this week after a two month break and there are some exciting games to look forward to. Let’s look ahead at some of the key fixtures and discuss whether this could finally be Arsenal’s year to win the European Cup.

Arsenal vs Porto

There is only one place to start and that’s looking ahead to Arsenal’s last-16 first leg tie against Porto. We travel to the Estadio do Dragao next Wednesday night and Mikel Arteta will be hoping to bring home a positive result ahead of the second leg at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal made light work of the group stages as we finished top of Group B – four points ahead of PSV Eindhoven. We won four of our six games in a group that also included Lens and Europa League winners, Sevilla, so it was a solid effort from the squad.

However, the real work starts now and Arsenal have been handed a favourable last-16 draw after being pitted against Porto. They are still a dangerous side but we avoided all the big guns so Arteta must be pleased with the draw.

The Portuguese outfit finished second in Group H behind Barcelona and we all know they will be strong at home. However, if we can avoid defeat next week, we’ll be well placed to win the second leg to secure our place in the quarter-finals.

It’s been tough to buy Champions League tickets this season as fans are desperate to see us in action having returned to Europe’s elite competition following a six year absence. The home leg against Porto is already sold out but fans could still get hold of a ticket via online resellers such as Seatsnet.com.

Man City favourites

While Arsenal got a decent draw, it’s fair to say Manchester City were the most fortunate of all the clubs in the last-16 hat as Pep Guardiola’s side drew Danish minnows Copenhagen. City would have been favourites against almost anybody in the competition, but they should have very little trouble seeing-off Copenhagen over two legs.

City were one of only two teams to take maximum points from the group stages – the other being Real Madrid. They are the bookies favourites to retain the Champions League and they are also well placed to win another Premier League title this season.

Arsenal kept themselves in the mix with a thumping 6-0 win over West Ham to move level on points with Man City in second place – just two points behind leaders Liverpool. However, City have a game in hand and we all know how strong they usually are during the run-in, so it will be hard for anyone to stop them winning their fourth title on the bounce.

They’ll also be a formidable force in Europe so who knows, maybe Guardiola can do the impossible and secure back-to-back treble’s?

Leipzig vs Madrid

Arguably Man City’s closest rivals for the Champions League will be Real Madrid. They also breezed through the group stages with six wins from six games and they’ve been rewarded with a tie against RB Leipzig in the last-16.

Madrid have suffered some serious injuries this season with Eder Militao, David Alaba and Thibaut Courtois all out with ACL injuries, however, they still have a very strong side and they know how to win in Europe.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men sit five points clear at the top of La Liga after beating nearest rivals Girona 4-0 at the weekend, so they are also on course to win the domestic title. Madrid will also have eyes on another European Cup and they’ll be confident of beating Leipzig over two legs.

The Bundesliga outfit have some very good players in their squad but they are struggling for consistency this season. They managed to finish second behind City in the group stages but are sitting fifth in the Bundesliga – 18 points off the leaders – after drawing with Augsburg at the weekend. I don’t see them being a match for Madrid so fully expect the Spaniard’s to ease into the quarter finals.

Bayern to focus on Europe?

Bayern Munich are also among the favourites to win the Champions League this season and they may opt to focus on Europe following their thumping 3-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend.

Xabi Alonso’s men are storming their way to the Bundesliga title and sit five points clear at the top after extending their unbeaten run to 21 games with the win over Bayern on Saturday.

Obviously Bayern could still close the gap but lets be honest, they have won the Bundesliga for the last 11 years, so they may see this as an opportunity to throw everything at winning the Champions League.

Thomas Tuchel’s men have a great draw in the last-16 after being drawn to face Lazio, so they’ll be confident of reaching the quarter finals. Lazio have really struggled this season and sit eighth in Serie A, so it’s difficult to see them causing Bayern too many problems.

Elsewhere, Paris Saint-Germain will be favourites to see-off Real Sociedad in their last-16 clash. Barcelona will look to put their domestic troubles behind them when they take on Napoli next Wednesday night.

Borussia Dortmund take on PSV Eindhoven in Holland next week while the final last-16 tie sees Inter Milan host Atletico Madrid at the San Siro.

Arsenal’s year?

Looking through the last-16 ties, it appears that this year’s Champions League is fairly open. Big guns like Bayern Munich and Barcelona are nowhere neat their best, while the likes of Dortmund, PSG and Inter Milan are very beatable. I would currently back Arsenal to beat any of those teams over two legs.

We also don’t have to worry about the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United or Chelsea in this years competition, so many of the traditional challengers aren’t in the running. Obviously, the two biggest threats for Arsenal are Man City and Real Madrid. Both should have no trouble reaching the quarter-finals so it could come down to how lucky we get in that draw – should we beat Porto of course.

If City and Madrid were drawn to play each other in the next stage, that would be massive for us as it would eliminate one of the toughest opponents and really blow the competition wide open.

Arsenal have struggled at times in the Premier League playing against defensive teams who sit with a low block, but we’re less likely to face this tactic against bigger clubs in Europe. Even PSV tried to go toe-to-toe with us and it resulted in a comfortable 4-0 win for Arsenal.

I actually think we can do very well in the Champions League this year as the competition may suit us better. If we can just avoid Man City and Madrid for as long as possible, and hope other teams can knock them out, then who knows…..this could finally be the year when Arsenal win the Champions League.