Paris Saint-Germain welcome Arsenal to the Parc des Princes this midweek, with the two Group A favourites aiming to steal an edge on the other in the first round of matches in the Champions League group stage (7.45pm Tuesday on BT Sport 2).
Arsenal have failed to make it beyond the round of 16 of Europe’s premier club competition since 2010, with Monaco, Barcelona (twice), Bayern Munich (twice) and Milan knocking the Gunners out in the first knockout round.
They will be looking to change that this season, and Arsene Wenger (pictured) will be aware that finishing in top spot in the group will enhance their chances of going deeper in the tournament. Arsenal have had a mixed start to the 2016/17 campaign, losing to Liverpool, drawing to Leicester City and beating Watford and Southampton. That latter victory was only secured with a questionable stoppage-time penalty on Saturday afternoon. There is plenty of room for improvement for the north Londoners, who will be out to make a real statement of intent in the French capital on Tuesday.
PSG have had an even shakier start to the season: after back-to-back triumphs against Bastia and Metz, the Ligue 1 champions lost to Monaco before the international break and were held to a 1-1 draw by Saint-Etienne immediately after it.
Unai Emery’s charges should still be good enough to hold off the competition in France and win another league title this year. Given that Laurent Blanc was sacked at the end of 2015/16 for failing to make meaningful progress in Europe, the former Sevilla boss will be aware of the need for a strong showing in the Champions League this term.
Arsenal will be unable to call upon the services of Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Gabriel Paulista (ankle), Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck and Carl Jenkinson (all knee). Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud could come into the starting line-up after beginning the Southampton game on the substitutes’ bench.
Lucas Perez struggled in a central striker role on Saturday and may therefore either be moved out wide or drop out of the XI altogether. Fellow summer signing Shkodran Mustafi will partner Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the backline once more.
PSG will have to make do without Layvin Kurzawa (thigh), Maxwell (muscular), Serge Aurier (ankle), Javier Pastore (calf) and Thiago Silva (hip). Jese should be available despite picking up a knock against Saint-Etienne. Edinson Cavani will return to the side at the top of the pitch, with Angel Di Maria and Lucas Moura likely to be key in support roles. Young centre-half duo Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe should continue alongside one another at the back.
Arsenal are a team used to dominating possession in the majority of games they contest, but they may have to remain patient and disciplined without the ball on Tuesday. PSG are likely to take the initiative in front of their own supporters. Wenger will probably look to include plenty of pace in his team, particularly on the flanks, and the Gunners would be wise to focus on catching the hosts cold on the counter-attack.
Taking everything into account, our preview’s verdict is to expect a 1-1 draw at the Parc des Princes. While PSG have been far from their best in the opening weeks of the campaign, they still have enough attacking quality to cause problems for an Arsenal defence that is still in the process of gelling following the acquisition of Mustafi. The Gunners also have enough about them to disrupt PSG at the other end, so both sides may be forced to settle for a share of the spoils.