Preview: Anderlecht vs Arsenal
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) October 21, 2014
Arsenal visit Belgian champions Anderlecht for the first part of their Champions League double-header in Group D.
The Gunners have won twice on their three previous visits to Belgium, with their only defeat coming at the hands of KFC Winterslag in the second round of the UEFA Cup back in 1981.
Anderlecht and Arsenal have only faced off twice in European competition – that was in the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup 1969-70. Those two matches ended with one win for each team, but Arsenal lifted the trophy by winning 4-3 on aggregate.
Arsenal need to close the gap between them and the table toppers Borussia Dortmund. They will be targeting maximum points from both games against Anderlecht, starting with this away trip to Stade Constant Vanden Stock. The Gunners are currently second in group D after following their defeat at Borussia Dortmund with a 4-1 thumping of Galatasaray.
They will have to accomplish their task without a couple of key players absent due to injuries. At least Arsene Wenger had some good news on the injury front with Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott both fit.
Ramsey came off the bench in the draw with Hull City after recovering from a hamstring injury and Theo Walcott is available for the first time since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament against Tottenham back in January.
Wenger’s troops will visit an Anderlecht side that still tops the Belgian league despite suffering a dip in form. They are winless in their last three outings after losing 3-0 to Borussia Dortmund, then drawing with Genk and KV Mechelen in their domestic fixures.
Anderlecht team news
- Fabrice N’Sakala continues to miss out with a knee injury.
- Centre-back Bram Nuytinck is a doubt after sitting out at the weekend.
- Anthony Vanden Borre should be available for this game after recovering from an ankle injury and getting minutes over the weekend.
Arsenal team news
- David Ospina, Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy, Yaya Sanogo, Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil are all sidelined through injury.
- Wojciech Szczesny is suspended. Rookie Emiliano Martinez will start in goal.
- Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry could be involved after returning from a long-term injuries
Anderlecht will probably tart with Aleksandar Mitrovic as the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. They have the legs to deny Arsenal with a good defensive shift since more than half of their likely starters will be aged 21 or younger. Besnik Hasi’s men will primarily need to be strong defensively.
With Szczesny suspended and Ospina (hip) also unavailable, Emiliano Martinez appears set to make his Champions League debut in goal for Arsenal. Wenger will at least be glad to have Calum Chambers back and will probably slot the versatile defender at the heart of defence to partner Per Mertesacker.
Wenger rarely changes his approach to games so Arsenal will start in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Mathieu Flamini as the holding midfielder and Danny Welbeck as the centre forward.
The Gunners should enjoy more possession, push play into their hosts’ half and they should have enough to win this game.