Arsenal begin their attempts to make the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2010 as they take on Monaco in the Round of 16 on Wednesday.
They will have been delighted to avoid Barcelona and Bayern Munich in December’s draw, having gone out to either of those two sides in four of the last five seasons. While the French side cannot be taken lightly, this is a very winnable tie for the Gunners, who return to the European stage full of confidence after a fine run of results.
It was hard work at Crystal Palace on Saturday as they held off a late onslaught to win 2-1, but Santi Cazorla’s penalty and Olivier Giroud’s poacher’s effort was enough for the three points and an eighth win in nine matches in all competitions, and here they will be determined to establish at least a two-goal advantage and avoid conceding an away goal.
Some still question Arsenal’s mentality when they play on the biggest stage of all, but the team does appear to have become tougher as a unit in recent weeks with the emergence of Francis Coquelin in midfield. Performances in the group stage were patchy, but this is a different side to the one that relinquished a three-goal lead at home to Anderlecht.
Monaco lost some key players in the summer including James Rodriguez and Emmanuel Riviere, not to mention Radamel Falcao on loan to Manchester United, and as a result they have struggled for consistency in Ligue 1, lying fourth and some 11 points behind leaders Lyon. However, they do have a very strong defence, so much so that it took only four goals to win their Champions League group.
The hosts are without injured quartet Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and Aaron Ramsey, while Monaco are unable to call upon Tiemou Bakayoko, Ricardo Carvalho, Andrea Raggi and Jeremy Toulalan.
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