Arsenal currently sit in third place and face elimination from the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the format change in 2003. Having lost to every team in their group, winning only once in a shock victory over leaders Bayern Munich, Arsenal must win their two remaining games, provided that Olympiacos lose on Tuesday night in Munich. Arsenal’s loss at the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon was not ideal preparation for a must win game. The injury list does not offer too much promise for the Arsenal fans either, with Coquelin picking up an injury adding to their woes.
Dinamo on the other hand have had a tough week with midfielder Arijan Ademi being banned for four years after failing a drug test in September following the victory over the Gunners. This came only days after the club’s president, Zdravko Mamic, was arrested on bribery and tax evasion charges. He is thought to have embezzled almost $17 million from the club. The owner is the brother of the manager, Zoran Mamic, and these off the pitch issues could come to the fore in their Champions League match up on Tuesday. The coach is under investigation for his connection to alleged corruption and organised crime. On the pitch, though, they have won two in a row in the league and currently sit second in the Croatian first division, two points below the leaders.
Arsenal face a long list of injuries with midfield anchor Francis Coquelin being added to the list over the weekend. Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere will also miss the game with other long term absentees being Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck. It is expected that Aaron Ramsey will return to the side which should be a big boost for Wenger’s men.
Dinamo of course are missing the suspended Arijan Ademi while Domagoj Antolic and Gordon Schildenfeld will miss through injury. Josip Pivaric is also suspended for the fixture. Angelo Henriquez, formerly of Manchester United, scored the winning goal at the weekend and he will be keen to prove he can do the same in England.
This will be Zagreb’s seventh visit to England and they are still without a win. They have only managed two 0-0 draws, coming at Leeds in the 1960s and at Old Trafford in 1999, losing on the other four occasions. Dinamo’s only points this term came against Arsenal in the 2-1 win and look set to maintain their record of never advancing into the next phase of the competition. The Gunners have reached the last 16 of the competition for fifteen years in a row now but that is the same stage that they have fallen for the last four years. They face an uphill task to make the knockout stages this time around. When the teams first met, Dinamo were on a long unbeaten streak and going into match day two of the Champions League, they were 45 unbeaten. As it stands, they have lost five of their last ten matches in all competitions and this could be the ideal time for Wenger to get his team back on track for qualification.
The only other meeting between the two sides in North London ended in a 2-1 win for the home side with Mathieu Flamini netting the winner.
Mesut Ozil – This man has really come into his own in recent weeks and has been creating goals like no other. With Alexis Sanchez in and out of form, it is nice to see the German playmaker show the kind of form that demanded a fee of over forty million pounds. He will likely find it tough to get a lot of space in this game but he has the keys to unlock any defence and his influence will be vital for the Gunners.
Armin Hodzic – The young Bosnian striker, who was on the books of Liverpool as youngster, has only seen the pitch in the two games against Olympiacos, coming off after about an hour each time. However, he was the man that put the Modri (Croatian for Blues) ahead in Greece and I see his lively play being important for this game. Dinamo will probably not see much of the ball and his defensive work ethic and ability to hold the ball up and will offer a good outlet for the counter attack.
I predict a tight, cagey affair with Arsenal fans on edge throughout the game. The atmosphere probably won’t help the cause for the players and if they were to concede, I can see the Emirates turning on their heroes. Either that, or Arsenal will annihilate the visitors. I would like to think that Arsenal have enough in their locker to really take it to teams in the Champions League, especially playing at home. An early goal should ease the nerves of the players and the fans alike and lead to a demolition of the underdogs.
I predict a 4-0 win for the Arsenal.