Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Basel, Champions League Group Matchday 2

Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, September 28
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from the Netherlands
    • Referee: Danny Makkelie
    • Assistants: Mario Diks and Hessel Steegstra
    • 4th Official: Jan Vries
    • Additional Assistants: Kevin Blom and Kamphuis Jochem
  • All-Time in All Competitions: First competitive meeting
  • Arsenal's European Form: L-W-W-L-L // D
  • Basel's European Form: W-L-W-D-L // D
  • Weather: Clear, 65 °F / 18 °C
This picture of a frustrated Diego Costa is so great, I think
I'll use it for every section in this preview.
Well, that was a helluva weekend, wasn't it?

I gotta be honest with you, I didn't see that coming. I had serious doubts about Arsenal's psychological ability to handle a Chelsea team that had been unbeaten against the Gunners for almost five years in the league. And if you say you didn't have at least some doubts yourself, I think you're stretching the truth a bit.

But, man, was that exhilarating or what? By the quarter hour mark, just around when Per Mertesacker was finding himself sent off in the corresponding fixture last season, we were two goals to the good. It was brutal, it was clinical, and it could have been more. It was everything you could have wanted from Arsenal v. Chelsea but would never have dared dreamed. It was a lot like Arsenal's beating of Manchester United at the Emirates last season, so let's hope they don't suffer the same kind of letdown they suffered at Old Trafford when they visit the Bridge in early February.

Anyway, back to reality, as there's still plenty of work to be done. We shift our focus back to Europe and a visit from Swiss champions Basel tonight. Arsenal were a bit lucky to snare a draw out of what was, on paper, their most difficult of their six group stage fixtures, but that would be all for naught if they fail to win their home games.

Again, 13 points is sufficient to advance from the group, so doing the double over Basel and Ludogorets will see Arsenal through to the next phase. Given their recent stumbles in the round of 16, Arsenal have a chance to really go for it here and win the group. They'll need a home result against PSG on matchday five for that to work out, but even that might not be enough if they don't take care of business against the rest.

So, let's keep this winning feeling going, shall we?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (knee,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)
Suspended: Giroud (one match, two yellow cards)

Just about the only bad news to come out of Saturday is, of course, the injury to Francis Coquelin. Since the Frenchman had injured the same knee last season (he then missed a little over two months,) there were fears of a recurrence, fears which could not be addressed until the swelling subsided some 48 hours later. But, there's good news! The scan was "quite positive," according to Arsène Wenger, and while Coquelin will miss this fixture, the injury appears to be short-term rather than my initial, personal, non-medical diagnosis of 4-6 weeks. It might still be as many as three, though, from what I've read.

There's no other new injury news to report from the weekend, aside from the fact that Carl Jenkinson returned to full training on Monday (which he likened to Christmas; isn't he just adorable?) Jenkinson suffered an ACL tear while on loan with West Ham and has been out of action since January 23.

With Coquelin out, we could see a holding midfield partnership of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, two players who have spent time in Basel. The Swiss club also have Xhaka's brother Taulant. The Xhakas last faced each other at this summer's Euros, as Taulant plays for Albania.

Olivier Giroud will serve a one match ban for his late red card against PSG, which could mean a start for Lucas Pérez up top. Then again, perhaps not: how do you justify dropping any one of the midfield trio of Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott, and Alexis Sánchez after the match they had on Saturday?

Having learned my lesson from matchday one, I would guess that David Ospina will start in goal.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Özil, Iwobi, Walcott, Alexis.

Basel Squad News

Out: Akanji (knee,) Bua (registration)
Doubts: Zuffi (ankle,) Janko (thigh)

Basel are not expected to make many changes, or perhaps any at all, to the side that drew Ludogorets on matchday one. Striker Marc Janko has not played since that match, when he was removed with a thigh injury on 40 minutes. Midfielder Luca Zuffi has missed two matches with an ankle injury, but was on the bench at the weekend. I'm predicting both will start, but since I don't follow the Swiss league that closely, that's really total guesswork.

Defender Manuel Akanji is a long-term injury with a knee problem, while midfielder Kevin Bua, who joined from Zürich this summer, is not in the club's Champions League squad list.

Predicted XI: Vaclík, Lang, Balanta, Suchý, Traoré, Xhaka, Steffen, Bjarnason, Delgado, Zuffi, Janko.

Current Form

It has been 45 days since Arsenal lost 4-3 to Liverpool on the opening day of the season. Since then, Arsenal's form, across all competitions, has read as follows: D-W-W-D-W-W-W. Yes, the Gunners are unbeaten in their last seven fixtures overall. To put that in some perspective, Arsenal ended last season unbeaten in nine (they did not lose again after being eliminated from Europe at Camp Nou on March 16,) but it didn't feel that way because of four draws in the mix, including particularly brutal ones to Crystal Palace and Sunderland, not to mention Andy Carroll's hat trick at Upton Park.

Given the circumstances, things look pretty good in Goonerland right now. I'll touch on this more at the weekend since it's more relevant for Sunday, but Arsenal have a four game winning streak in the league for the first time since last October (that streak was five.) It's easy to forget that Arsenal were top of the league at the halfway point last year.

As for Basel, they are well on their way to their eighth consecutive Swiss Super League title; the last time another club won the league was 2009, when Zürich won. After nine league games this season, Basel still has a 100% record in domestic competition and are already 13 points clear of second place Young Boys. They've won twice in the Swiss Cup as well and will face Tuggen in the third round in a month's time; Basel were eliminated on penalties in last year's quarterfinals to Sion, though you might be interested to know that Mohamed Elneny converted Basel's first in that shootout.

Arsenal have struggled at home in Europe in recent seasons; over their last 15 home matches in the Champions League, they've won seven, lost seven, and drawn one. Last year, Arsenal split their home results evenly. They lost on matchday two to Olympiacos before shocking Bayern Munich on matchday three, getting revenge on Dinamo Zagreb on matchday five for their earlier loss in Croatia, and then falling to Barcelona in the first leg of the round of 16.

Match Facts

Arsenal are 4-0 all-time against Swiss competition, but they have never met Basel in a competitive fixture. Arsenal's previous run-ins with the Swiss came in 1971 and 2005. In the '71 European Cup second round (you know, after they won the league at the Lane the year prior...), Arsenal beat Grasshopper 5-0 on aggregate, 2-0 in Switzerland and 3-0 at Highbury. They went on to lose to Ajax, the eventual champions, in the next round. In 2005's group stage, Arsenal defeated Thun twice: 2-1 in London with a late winner from Dennis Bergkamp and 1-0 in Switzerland with a late penalty spot winner from Robert Pirès.

Basel have faced English competition on 24 previous occasions, winning six, losing 10, and drawing eight. Most recently, in 2014, they were in a group with Liverpool, Ludogorets, and Real Madrid. On matchday six, Basel went to Anfield and got a 1-1 draw, having beaten the Reds earlier in the group stage at home. The result meant that Basel advanced to the round of 16 at Liverpool's expense. Basel also beat Chelsea twice in the 2013 group stage; Chelsea won all four of their other games to top the group. The previous spring, Chelsea defeated Basel in the Europa League semifinal after the Swiss side had dispatched Tottenham in the quarterfinals on penalties.

In 10 previous Champions League matches against English competition, Basel have lost just once. at home to Manchester United in the 2002/03 second group stage.

The Referee

The match officials are from the Netherlands; the referee is Danny Makkelie. This will be Makkelie's eighth Champions League match in his career; it's the first time he's working an Arsenal match.

Basel have seen Makkelie once before, in last seasons's Europa League round of 32. In a dramatic second leg against Saint-Étienne, after the French side had won the first leg at home 3-2, Luca Zuffi's opening goal, which leveled the tie, was canceled out by a 90th minute goal Moustapha Bayal Sall. Zuffi, however, scored a 92nd minute goal to win the match 2-2, level the tie 4-4, and see Basel through on away goals. They did this on ten men as well, as Breel Embolo, now at Schalke, was sent off on 84 minutes for a second yellow card. Basel went on to lose to eventual champion Sevilla in the round of 16.

In his three previous Champions League fixtures involving clubs from either of these countries, the English sides have two wins from two and the Swiss have one loss from, well, one. Chelsea ran out 6-0 winners over Maribor with Makkelie in the middle in the 2014 group stage. Last year, Grasshopper found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 loss to Monaco in the qualifying rounds with Makkelie in charge, while Manchester City later had a group stage win 4-2 over Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Monaco 0 - 1 Bayer Leverkusen
  • Tuesday: CSKA Moscow 0 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur
  • Tuesday: Borussia Dortmund 2 - 2 Real Madrid
  • Tuesday: Sporting CP 2 - 0 Legia Warsaw
  • Tuesday: Copenhagen 4 - 0 Club Brugge
  • Tuesday: Leicester City 1 - 0 Porto
  • Tuesday: Dinamo Zagreb 0 - 4 Juventus
  • Tuesday: Sevilla 1 - 0 Lyon
  • Wednesday: Ludogorets Razgrad v. Paris Saint-Germain; Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia
  • Wednesday: Beşiktaş v. Dynamo Kyiv; Vodafone Arena, Istanbul
  • Wednesday: Napoli v. Benfica; Stadio San Paolo, Naples
  • Wednesday: Borussia Mönchengladbach v. Barcelona; Borussia-Park, Mönchengladbach
  • Wednesday: Celtic v. Manchester City; Celtic Park, Glasgow
  • Wednesday: Atlético Madrid v. Bayern Munich; Estadio Vicente Calderón, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Rostov v. PSV Eindhoven; Olimp-2, Rostov-on-Don
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a cold front. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for relevant weather forecasts.