With diplomatic tensions between the UK and Russia heightened at present, our Europa League quarter-final against CSKA Moscow has acquired a certain edge that neither club will particularly welcome.
Arsene Wenger flat-batted any questions about it in his pre-match press conference, and understandably so. After all, considering the already considerable pressure on us to win this tournament, we could do without anything that will further strain a tie that is far from straightforward.
We have been installed as favourites to progress but a quick glance at the CSKA side underlines the quality that the visitors have in their ranks. Igor Akinfeev, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golvin - all fine players who will relish the chance to cause an upset in the capital. Elsewhere, a backline of Sergei Ignashevich (38) and the Berezutski twins (both 35), may be aging but they each possess extensive European experience and know-how.
Our task is to overcome the many challenges that CSKA will present, as well as block out all the external noise surrounding this tie. It may not be as easy as that, but having won four games on the bounce we finally have some momentum on our side. This should be quite a game.
Read on for our comprehensive pre-match briefing. We’ve got goals, team news, quotes from the manager, match facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.
LAST TIME OUT
A TIME TO STICK TOGETHER
Wenger on the dynamics of this tie...
“When you play at home in the first leg, you don’t know exactly what you have to achieve. Usually when you play the second game at home, you know exactly what kind of result you need and that’s not the case in the first. You’re a bit more in a situation where you know you have to do both things well - defend and attack well - without knowing exactly what will be needed to qualify."
Arsenal: Cazorla (calf), Aubameyang (cup-tied)
CSKA Moscow: Vasin (knee), Gordyushenko (meniscus), Fernandes (hamstring)
Tactical expert Michael Cox:
“CSKA can be lethal on the break – they use a two-man strikeforce, but in a way neither is a true centre forward. Ahmed Musa, on loan from Leicester City since January, is an electric speedy winger who offers a constant counter-attacking threat, and in this system will look to make runs into the channels to collect long passes, perhaps in the mould of his ex-teammate Jamie Vardy.
"Alongside him is Brazilian Vitinho, a brilliant all-round attacker capable of genuine moments of magic, and very adept at shooting from long-range. Arsenal must watch him carefully."
THE LAST WORD
Wenger on the importance of keeping a clean sheet...
"The weight of an away goal is important in Europe. Ideally, you don’t want to concede but even if you do concede, you still want to win the game. You don’t stop playing if you concede a goal. Ideally, you want to combine both scoring goals and not conceding, but the situations are not always ideal. When you play away from home, you have the same advantage."
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