Arsenal will have to decide for themselves whether to end a long run of second-placed finishes with a win against Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday, 23 November 2016 in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) at Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger’s side should at least focus their lenses on the quarter or even semi-finals. Wenger believes this will be the most open Champions League for years and plots Arsenal’s route to the latter stages.
Should Arsenal claim victory today as they face PSG, they win Group A and ensure an easier last-16 tie. This is the stage Wenger’s side have reached for years now only to be handed a tough fixture against FC Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
More still, the top end of the competition is less stratified than it has been in recent years. The football elites in FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich seem prone to a beating these days compared to the past years. So none should feel offended if I say that there is no obvious favourite.
The last time an English team won the Champions League is roughly five years ago when Chelsea condemned Bayern to a 4-3 defeat. So far, Wenger believes an English side can clinch the title in the name of Arsenal. ‘’This is the most open competition in years,’’ Wenger added.
The Gunners and PSG both have 10 points and have booked their place in the knockout stage with two games to spare. France forward Olivier Giroud could start after his equaliser as a substitute at Manchester United on Saturday.
“It is a luxury to be qualified after four games,” said Wenger.
Arsenal are level on points with PSG at the top of the group, and their manager wants a victory to ensure a favourable draw in the last 16.
A win on Wednesday would secure top spot with one game to play, as it would leave Wenger’s team three points clear of PSG and with a better head-to-head record. The winners will be drawn against a runner-up from another group in the next round.
Arsenal drew 1-1 away to PSG on 13 September, and Wenger added: “We have done the job in a convincing way.
“Now, we have to finish the job at home. We played a draw there and now it is down to us to win the game.”
Arsenal are unbeaten in 17 games, are three points off the top of the Premier League while they have breezed through to the next stage in Europe.
Yet Wenger was not all buoyant at his news conference on Tuesday.
The 67-year-old angrily denied suggestions he was gambling on the fitness of Alexis Sanchez after the forward played the whole game on Saturday despite injuring a hamstring while on international duty with Chile.
PSG have won only one of their eight away games against English opposition in all competitions (D3 L4).
The French club are yet to beat Arsenal in European competition (D2 L1).
PSG have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine competitive games against English clubs.
With all this statistics seemingly favouring Arsenal, Wenger hopes for the best.