Gunners eye group's top spot amid lottery of draw

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud in training ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's visit. The Frenchman will be looking to add to his season's tally of one goal in Europe.
Arsenal's Olivier Giroud in training ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's visit. The Frenchman will be looking to add to his season's tally of one goal in Europe.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsenal have a gilt-edged opportunity to kick a self-destructive Champions League habit when they host Paris Saint-Germain today knowing victory will seal top spot in Group A.

The north London football side have fallen in the last 16 in each of the past six seasons and, during that period, only once did they finish first in their group.

Their punishment for finishing runners-up on the other five occasions was harsh, twice being drawn against Bayern Munich and twice against Barcelona, losing all four ties. Even when the draw did favour them, they fell to Monaco.

If they do beat PSG, who are level on 10 points with them, the spectre of a horror draw against Bayern or Barcelona would still exist.

Neither of those two clubs are guaranteed top spot in their respective groups and could lurk as runners-up, but unless Arsene Wenger owns a crystal ball he can only assume that finishing top will be rewarded.

Ultimately, the luck of the draw will play its part but an Arsenal victory would maintain the positive vibe of their campaign to date and fire out a message to their rivals.

Olivier Giroud's late equaliser against Manchester United on Saturday means Arsenal are unbeaten in 17 matches in all competitions since losing to Liverpool in their season opener, while PSG are on a nine-game undefeated run.

Arsenal have drawn three of their last four Premier League games and should today's match end all square, the battle for top spot will go down to the final round of games when Arsenal travel to Basel and PSG host Ludogorets.

While Arsenal's level has dipped in recent weeks, Wenger believes his side's resilience will be key against PSG.

"Hopefully we can move on with some wins, we have a big game on Wednesday against Paris Saint-Germain and that will be the same intensity," he said after the United draw. "I am convinced that we will be better on Wednesday."

PSG warmed up with a 2-0 defeat of Nantes at the weekend although they suffered an injury scare when winger Angel di Maria was withdrawn in the first half because of a hamstring niggle.

Coach Unai Emery later said he was confident the Argentinian will be fit to face Arsenal.

REUTERS

ARSENAL V PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Gunners eye group's top spot amid lottery of draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe