On February 25th, French side Monaco travel to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal in the Champions League round of 16. Monaco will enter this match with high spirits having won their group and having lost only one of their last 10 league matches. Arsenal will come in as the favorites though, despite finishing second in their group. The gunners will look to win at home and take some sort of advantage into the second leg. This is the first time Monaco have reached the round of 16 since 2005, so they are happy just to be their, but they will see this as a winnable tie and will look to get to the quarter finals. Arsene Wenger will be looking to get past his former club and take Arsenal into the quarter finals for the first time since 2010.
Arsenal are no longer in an injury crisis, but they do have a few players missing this one through injury. Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain are both dealing with injuries that will keep them out at least until the beginning of March. Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta both have long term injuries that will keep them out until the end of April.
Monaco will also be without some members of their squad. Jeremy Toulalan will miss out via suspension, while Andrea Raggi, Ricardo Carvalho, and Tiemoue Bakayoko have already been ruled out of the match through injury. Both Yannick Carrasco and Layvin Kurzawa missed training Monday and are doubts for the match.
Arsene Wenger managed Monaco from 1987 to 1994, but this is the first time he will come up against his old club in a competitive match. The two sides did face each other in Arsenal’s preseason tournament the Emirates Cup. Monaco came out 1-0 victors with Manchester United forward Radamel Falcao scoring the only goal. The last three French sides to come to the Emirates Stadium have all failed to score and Arsenal are unbeaten in their last six matches vs French opposition. Monaco have not played competitively in England since 2004 when they lost 2-0 to Liverpool at Anfield.
Arsenal: Mesut Ozil
After missing three months with a knee injury, Mesut Ozil has come back to Arsenal with a bang. The World Cup winner has come back and put in some phenomenal performances for the gunners. He has come back with goals, assists, chances created, and everything you could ask of him. Monaco are known for their organization and defensive prowess. They don’t score too many, but the side from the principality rarely concede. Ozil’s eye for a killer ball and ability to play in tight areas could be key to Arsenal breaking down the French side.
Monaco: Joao Moutinho
Against a team like Arsenal with such a talented midfield, Monaco will need big performances from their midfielders. Joao Moutinho is someone that can help control the strong Arsenal midfield. The all action Portuguese midfielder can play anywhere across the midfield and can do any job he is asked to do. He can defend, dictate the tempo, or play a defense splitting ball. He can really do it all and he will need to do it all against Arsenal if Monaco are to come away with a good result.
This is the Champions League and in the Champions League anyone can beat anyone. Arsenal come in as the favorites, but Monaco are a very good side and will not go out without a fight. You would expect Arsenal to score at home, but Monaco’s defensive record is one of the best in Europe. If Monaco are able to get a goal it would put them in a very good position for the second leg. I think Arsenal will come away with a narrow victory, but the tie will still be up for grabs in the second leg.
Prediction: 1-0 Arsenal