Arsenal v PSG
Thursday November 24, 6:45am AEDT
Arsenal and PSG are tied on 10pts at the top of Group A with just two rounds of fixtures to go, meaning both teams have already qualified for the knockout phase.
Having proved too strong for Basel and Ludogorets, the other two teams in the pool, Arsenal and PSG are facing-off here to top the group, with first place potentially meaning an easier passage through the knockout phase during the spring.
When they played each other at Parc des Princes in September the match ended 1-1, that result a further sign of how well-matched these two sides are.
PSG have arguably been in slightly better shape than Arsenal in recent weeks: Unai Emery’s visitors are on a tremendous run of eight wins and a draw in nine fixtures since their last defeat in late September (2-0 at Toulouse).
Arsenal’s unbeaten run stretches back a lot further than that – their only 2016-17 defeat was at home to Liverpool (3-4) on the opening day of the Premier League season – but there have been more draws on the Gunners’ results card in recent weeks, their six-game form reading W3-D3-L0.
There are team news issues on both sides. France left-back Layvin Kurzawa is absent from the Paris party that travelled to London on Tuesday morning, while fellow France international Adrien Rabiot – arguably PSG’s most effective midfielder this season – has also been ruled out.
PSG were dealt a further blow by the news that their Ivory Coast right-back Serge Aurier has had his travel visa into the UK revoked because of an assault conviction he received in September, a decision he is appealing against. PSG have reacted angrily to the player’s travel ban, a decision that may add needle to the match and motivate the visitors.
Arsenal are without Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla as well as long-term absentees Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker.
It’s understandable that Arsenal are favourites given they have home advantage but there’s so little to pick between these sides there are really no strong reasons to back the hosts.
Arsenal have a good home record in all competitions this season (W6-D2-L1) but their defeat at home to Liverpool on the opening day of the Premier League season and points dropped at home to Tottenham recently (1-1) underline that Arsene Wenger’s side occasionally slip-up in front of their own fans.
PSG have lost twice on the road – 3-1 at Monaco in August and 2-0 at Toulouse in September – but also recorded some big victories, e.g. 6-0 at Caen in September. They’ve also won two out of two on the road in the Champions League so far: 3-1 at Ludogorets and 2-1 at Basel.
Given how little there is to pick between the sides and given the odds available in this market, the Draw – the outsider of the three prices available at 3.50 – is the pick.
Under/Over 2.5 Goals
There’s little to pick between the two prices in this market. Looking at all the evidence, there are more reasons to go Overs than Unders.
First up, there are the two teams’ high scoring rates: Arsenal have scored an average of 2.39 goals a game across 18 games in all competitions while PSG have netted an average of 2.19 goals a game across the same number of fixtures. Eleven of Arsenal’s 18 fixtures (61%) have featured Over 2.5 Goals, the same applying to 10 of PSG’s 18 fixtures (56%).
The Over 2.5 Goals barrier wasn’t broken when these two sides met in Paris in September, the game finishing 1-1 on that occasion. Over the course of the group stage as a whole, however, Over 2.5 Goals has been the smart selection: five of the seven games involving these two sides have featured three goals or more.
Rarely has a striker averaging better than a goal a game over a period of nearly four months been as maligned as PSG’s Edinson Cavani.
The Uruguay international has scored 15 goals in 15 Ligue 1 and Champions League appearances combined this season, netting at a rate of a goal every 79 minutes. Yet even though those are stats that bear comparison with virtually any player in the world right now Cavani continues to be on the end of stinging criticism from media and fans for allegedly missing too many chances.
It’s true that Cavani can seem wasteful in front of goal but that’s merely a tribute to him for getting into scoring positions with such remarkable frequency during games. He can be clumsy at times but his stats are outstanding in a PSG side playing less fluently than last season as they’re still seeking an identity under new manager Emery.
Cavani has scored in three of PSG’s four group games so far and is a good bet to find the target here. At reasonable odds he’s the smart selection to silence his critics once again, temporarily at least.
BACK – The Draw at 3.50
BACK – Edinson Cavani to score at 2.60