GNK Dinamo Zagreb
On Wednesday, Arsenal need to get themselves together after their disappointing defeat to West Brom for a must-win Champions league encounter at home to Croatian side GNK Dimano Zagreb, to whom they lost 2-1 in the away leg.
Arsenal currently sit at the bottom of Group F with 3 points from 4 matches with Olympiacos and Bayern both already having 9 points — the maximum number of points Arsenal can manage in the present scenario. This would be the first time since 1999 that Arsenal have failed to make it out of the Champions League group stage.
The Gunners will need to win both their matches against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos, as well as hope that Bayern beat Olympiacos, if they are to qualify for the next round of the competition. Dinamo Zagreb, on the other hand, have been rocked by the doping controversy that followed their previous match against Arsenal and the squad face the daunting task of beating both Arsenal and Bayern Munich , if they want to have a chance of progression.
Team News and Tactics:
After the bright start they had gotten off to after beating Arsenal at home, Zagreb lost a couple of close games to Olympiacos before this fixture. They will be without defender Josip Pivaric, who was sent off in their last match against Olympiacos, and 24 year old Macedonian Midfielder Arijan Ademi, who has been handed a four-year ban after failing a drugs test after featuring in the clubs last game against The Gunners.
Captain Domagoj Antolic has recovered from a back injury and might be eased into the match to avoid a sudden return to high intensity football, but defender Gordon Schildenfeld is still out as he recovers from a long-term thigh problem.
Probable Starting XI – Eduardo, Hodzic, Taravel, Matel, Pinto, Sosa, Sigali, Santos, Machado, Rog, Henriquez
Arsenal have been dealt severe injury blows, with the most recent being the loss of holding midfielder Francis Coquelin who is instrumental to Wenger’s side. The injury, during the same match, to club captain Mikel Arteta who could’ve filled in for Coquelin does not help matters. Welshman Aaron Ramsey is back in the squad after an injury lay off but Wenger might choose not to play him so early in his return.
The team will look to their two key players and creators, Ozil and Sanchez, to help them bang in the goals, while the young Keiran Gibbs will be looking to milk the most of the opportunity handed to him by the manager. Olivier Giroud has hit a purple patch and will look to continue his goal scoring heroics against Zagreb.
The aging Mathieu Flamini will look to support Santi Cazorla in central midfield and the two will hope to make up for the absence of Coquelin. Their defense, though pried open by West Brom, is in good hands with Mertesacker and Koscielny forming a strong and solid central defence partnership and former Champions League winner Petr Cech looking solid in goal.
Probable Starting XI – Cech, Monreal, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Bellerin, Cazorla, Flamini, Sanchez, Ozil, Gibbs, Giroud
- Only Maccabi Tel Aviv and BATE Borisov (both 11) have conceded more goals in the competition this season than Arsenal (10).
- The Gunners have conceded more goals from outside the penalty area than any other side this season in the Champions League (3) and more goals from a corner situation than any other team (3).
- No side has conceded more goals in the final 15 minutes in the Champions League this term than Dinamo (3) while no team has scored more in that time than Arsenal (3).
- Alexis Sanchez has been directly involved in four of Arsenal’s six Champions League goals this term.
Player To Watch
Sanchez is in prime form in the Champions league, with a goal and a career best 3 assists, he has also completed the highest number of dribbles in the competition (29). The indefatigable Chilean will be up to his usual tricks against the Croatian side and expect him to leave any defense short of world class completely bamboozled with his skills and ability on the ball.
Arsenal 3 -1 Dinamo Zagreb
Arsenal, despite their injury woes, should easily overcome the Croatian side who lack the quality and pace that Arsenal have. They may get a goal in considering the fact that Arsenal’s defence looks shaky and the absence of Coquelin could already start creating some problems for the Gunners, but they will probably concede a number of goals to a desperate Arsenal side who will be looking to get as many goals in as possible so that they manage to progress to the next stage by goal difference.