16th September 2015; 18:45 GMT
Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger would be hoping for a positive start to his 18th successive season in the Champions League. The only difference will be that the Frenchman would be looking to go all the way this time around and create history. But first, they need to negate their round-of-16 blues and qualify from Group F, which also has Olympiakos and Bayern Munich in it.
Group F encounter against Dinamo Zagreb is crucial for Arsenal FC, who would aim at topping the group. Arsene Wenger would be wary of facing Bayern Munich in the group stage and would want to get maximum points in the fixtures against Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb.
The Croatian club have won the domestic league title for 10 consecutive years and are unbeaten in the last 11 months. However, the Blues have never progressed from the group stages in the Champions League and it is unlikely to change unless they cause some huge upsets this time around.
Zoran Mamic would be looking to cause an upset against the Gunners and enhance their chances of making it to the knockout stages. The Croatian side overcame Albanian KF Sk nderbeu Kor in the playoff, comfortably beating them 6-2 over the two legs. However, their real test of progress since they last made it to the Champions League group stage in 2012-13, would come against English giants Arsenal FC.
Following the opening day debacle against West Ham United, the Gunners have somewhat brought their season back on track. However, the Emirates outfit are still struggling to score goals despite the host of chances created by them.
Team News, Tactics and Line-Up
The Blues would line up in manager Zoran Mamic’ preferred 4-2-1-3 formation, with former Manchester United striker Angelo Henriquez set to lead the line. El Arbi Hillel Soudani and Marko Pjaca are expected to flank the Chilean international in attack.
The hosts are without the services of defensive midfielder Goncalo Santos, who misses the game due to suspension. Otherwise, all the players are available for selection with no injuries to the players.
32-year-old Portuguese shot-stopper Eduardo Carvalho will start between the sticks, while J r my Taravel and Leonardo GermA?n Sigali are expected to form the central defensive pairing. Portuguese right-back Ivo Pinto and Croatian Josip Pivari would be seen flanking the central defenders, with Pinto having the task to keep the electric Alexis Sanchez at bay.
Arijan Ademi should start alongside Domagoj Antoli in midfield behind cultured midfielder Paulo Machado, who is expected to operate in the hole behind the striker.
Expected Line-up: Eduardo, Pinto, Sigali, Taravel, Pivaric; Ademi, Antolic, Machado; Soudani, Henriquez, Pjaca.
The Gunners injury list seems to be growing by the day, with three long-term absentees limiting Arsene Wenger’s options. Jack Wilshere was the latest to be sidelined for months, after it was revealed that the English international would require surgery to correct the hairline fracture that has kept him out of action till now. He joins Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky on the long-term injury list.
Arsenal FC are without the services of Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin with the duo having not traveled to Croatia with the rest of the squad. Arsene Wenger is expected to tinker with his starting line-up in light of the tough set of fixtures that the Gunners have ahead of them.
Petr Cech is likely to retain his place, having recovered from the opening day shocker against West Ham. Per Mertesacker is still recovering from the illness he suffered before the clash against Liverpool FC and is unlikely to feature. Brazilian defender Gabriel, who has been excellent for the Gunners whenever called into action, is expected to partner the ever-reliable Laurent Koscielny in the heart of defence.
Mathieu Debuchy is expected to fill in at right-back, having lost his starting berth to Bellerin — who has been in sensational form since breaking through the ranks at Arsenal FC. Nacho Monreal will most likely retain his place on the left hand side of the four man defence, the Spaniard has been at rock at the back so far for the Gunners.
Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla are expected to form the double pivot in the 4-2-3-1 formation, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will most likely replace Ramsey in the right wing role. Olivier Giroud is expected to lead the line for the Gunners as Wenger might prefer to keep Walcott fresh for the weekend clash against Chelsea FC, where his pace and movement could prove pivotal against the Blues’ vulnerable backline.
Mesut Ozil will be handed the No. 10 role, although the German is given the license to roam around. Alexis Sanchez, who has had a quiet start to the season so far, will want to get back among the goals and this match could be the start.
Expected Line-up: Cech, Debuchy, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Cazorla, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud.
- Arsenal FC’s present run of 18 consecutive seasons in the Champions League is only bettered by Real Madrid, who are on 19.
- Arsenal FC have won 76 games in Champions League – the most by any team, who haven’t won the competition.
- Arsenal FC last faced Zagreb in the qualifying round in 2006/07, with the Gunners comfortably beating the Blues 5-1 on aggregate.
- Zagreb have conceded a staggering 16 goals in their last six meetings with English sides and have lost all of the matches.
- The Croatian side have never made it past the group stages in four attempts till now.
- The Gunners have kept only one clean sheet in their last 10 away games of the group stage.
Player to watch out for:
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal FC)
The Chilean superstar has had a dormant start to his second season and is yet to score for the Gunners. Sanchez joined the squad late after being allowed an extended holiday, following his exploits with the national team in the Copa America winning campaign.
The 26-year-old is slowly getting back to his best and would be hoping to open his goal scoring account for the season against Zagreb. The Chilean has looked rusty so far, but with enough game time under his belt he would be looking to make a telling impact in the game.
Sanchez was Arsenal FC’s top scorer last season, with 25 goals in all competitions and he would be hungry to open his account for the season.
Dinamo Zagreb 1 – 3 Arsenal FC
The Gunners are clear favourites for the tie, but Zagreb are no pushovers. The English giants would be looking to start the campaign on a positive note and a win would also ease the pressure of qualification.
Arsenal FC would like to take maximum points from the games against Olympiakos and tomorrow’s opponents Zagreb, so that their fate doesn’t depend on the results of the fixtures against Bayern Munich.