The last time these two teams met, it did not end well for us. Tonight, in front of the home crowd, the Gunners will be looking for revenge for the 2-1 loss against the Croatian champions. Even though our Champions League hopes lie in shambles, a good victory tonight will do wonders for the team morale after what has been a tough week.
On the injury front, the team looks threadbare. Aaron Ramsey is expected to return tonight, which will bring some welcome stability to the attack, however the loss of Francis Coquelin is a tremendous blow that cannot be dealt with easily. Another consideration is that we may not qualify for the Round of 16 in the Champions League. With that in mind, the manager might choose to rest some of his key players for the Premier League games ahead. It is certainly an option.
Here is our predicted lineup for tonight:
Petr Cech in goal. There is no doubt that the veteran Czech international should start for us as much as possible.
At centre back, we may see the pairing of Gabriel Paulista and Laurent Koscielny reunited tonight. Mertesacker has struggled for form lately and the big German has constantly been tormented by opposition attackers throughout the season. With the absence of Coquelin in the midfield, Mertesacker will only become more vulnerable every time he pushes up, making Gabriel potentially a better choice.
Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal should retain their wide berths. The Spanish duo have been some of our best players this season.
Francis Coquelin is the big absentee; and his place will likely be taken by French compatriot Mathieu Flamini. The veteran player is capable of contributing defensively and has more physical presence than the likes of Arteta and Cazorla. However, he tends to go forward very frequently, something that he cannot afford to do if he plays the role of a shield for the back four. Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla should retain his own midfield place, and will be looking to make amends after a poor showing against the Baggies this weekend.
Up front, Mesut Ozil will start in his usual No. 10 slot. The German is unstoppable at the moment, and is invariably involved in all of our best attacking moves during games. He has been notching up assists for fun, and is the most likely candidate to do so tonight as well. The World Cup winner will also be on the hunt for an elusive goal.
Olivier Giroud should start as striker. The Frenchman scored a well taken header against the Baggies and has generally been in good form over the past couple of months. He will certainly remember the previous fixture against Dinamo, when he was sent off early in the game. No doubt, Giroud will be looking to make a statement by getting on the scoresheet tonight but let’s hope that he manages to keep his temper in check if things don’t go his way.
On the right, Aaron Ramsey should make his comeback from injury, adding some much needed stability and creativity going forward. The Welshman has been sorely missed and if he is fit enough to play, he is a guaranteed starter tonight. However, if his match readiness is still an issue then we may see the manager play Sanchez or Campbell on the right instead.
The left wing is an interesting question. Alexis Sanchez is of course the obvious first choice, but given the fact that the manager wants to rest him, today might be the best opportunity to do so. It seems unlikely, but if that is indeed the case then Kieran Gibbs is the second choice to play out wide tonight.
Check out our Match Preview for more details.