Weblog: The football punter

Back the Gunners to make a flying start

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Bookmakers have long believed Arsenal's best chance of securing Champions League football is through a top-four finish rather than winning the Europa League, and few hold the competition in higher regard than Unai Emery.

The Gunners are 5-1 to lift the trophy and 10-11 to land a top-four berth. But Emery, a three-time winner of the competition with Sevilla, will be keen for his side to keep their options open.

Arsenal have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit this campaign, swatting aside strong opposition at the Emirates but folding feebly on the road, and establishing a first-leg advantage over Napoli will be paramount to their hopes of progressing.

A routine 2-0 win over Newcastle made it ten wins on the spin at home for the first time since 1998 but Arsenal relinquished their advantage in the race for the top-four with an insipid defeat at Everton on Sunday.

They are the only Premier League outfit yet to keep an away clean sheet this term and, fully aware of the challenge that awaits them in Naples, Emery's side nothing less than a first-leg win will do.

Carlo Ancelotti's men do not need to juggle domestic and European duties with Juventus having all but wrapped up the Serie A title but their recent form is a cause for concern.

With focus specifically on the Europa League, they have sleepwalked into this fixture, losing away to relegation-threatened Empoli and failing to see off ten-man Genoa at the weekend.

They are a swashbuckling attacking unit by nature, with Arkadiusz Milik their focal danger, but they have lapsed defensively of late, failing to keep a clean sheet in each of their last six games.

That run included a 3-1 defeat at 2018 Europa League semi-finalists Red Bull Salzburg and they could struggle to keep Arsenal's front line quiet.

The last time Arsenal played at home and neither Alexandre Lacazette nor Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were on the scoresheet was late February.

Emery could very well set up with both starting and, having scored first-half goals in each of their last six home fixtures, the Gunners could make a rapid start.


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Match in Focus


Legia Warsaw v Rangers

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Gers have conceded just three goals in their six European games this term
Expert verdict
Rangers travel to Poland buoyed by some solid form in European qualifiers. The Gers toppled Danish outfit Midtjylland 7-3 on aggregate in the last round, taking their tally to 19 goals in six games.However, unbeaten Legia haven’t conceded in six games and are a step up.