Preview by Numbers: Paris Saint-Germain v. Arsenal, Champions League Group Matchday 1

Parc des Princes, Paris
Tuesday, September 13
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Hungary
    • Referee: Viktor Kassai
    • Assistants: György Ring and Vencel Tóth
    • 4th Official: Peter Berettyán
    • Additional Assistants: Tamás Bognar and Zsolt Szabó
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 1 Arsenal win, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-L-W-W-L-L
  • PSG's European Form: W-W-W-W-D-L
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 82 °F / 27 °C
I'll bet Madeline supports PSG.
Pack your bags! We're going on a European adventure! And hopefully it's better than last year's!

Arsenal huffed and puffed their way through Europe last year, opening with losses to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos before nabbing a big home win against Bayern Munich. In the end, they did just enough in the group stage to get the honor of losing to Barcelona in the Round of 16. So, you know, same old story.

The Gunners, coming in off consecutive wins in the league, will thankfully get their most difficult (but not necessarily trickiest) group stage game out of the way as they head to Paris to take on a PSG side that are struggling with injuries on defense and in filling the void left by Zlatan Ibrahimović up top. Both clubs have seven points through four league games, which isn't so out of the ordinary for Arsenal, but PSG are not in at least a tie at the top of Ligue 1 for the first time in 16 months.

Thirteen points guarantees progression from the group stage and, more often that not, is sufficient to win the group. A win tonight would set Arsenal well on their way to that total.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Gabriel (ankle,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee)
Doubts: Koscielny (eye,) Ramsey (hamstring)

Interesting birthday for Koscielny, who scored a beauty of a
goal in the first half and took a kick to the face in the second.
Laurent Koscielny took a nasty kick to the head in the build-up to what eventually became Arsenal's game-winning penalty at the weekend. He finished off the remaining three minutes of the match, but could be considered a doubt for this one, depending on how much swelling has occurred since Saturday. I wouldn't say it's exactly ideal to go into the most difficult of the six group stage matches with two center backs with a combined four matches completed for Arsenal between them, which would be the case if Rob Holding had to slip in alongside newcomer Shkodran Mustafi. I'd bet on Koscielny being fit to start, though, and Arsène Wenger has suggested that the Frenchman has "recovered quite well."

Arsenal rotated their squad a bit against Southampton, which should mean a start is on the cards for the likes of Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sánchez, and Olivier Giroud. There may be some question as to who starts alongside Xhaka in the holding role. Will Santi Cazorla, who missed so much time through injury last spring, play another 90 minutes just three days after the last match? Will Francis Coquelin retain his place? Will Mohamed Elneny get the start to keep the legs fresh?

I'm predicting Alexis starts on the left with Theo Walcott on the right because I've learned my lesson in terms of picking against Wenger's faith in Theo.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny, Özil, Alexis, Walcott, Giroud.

PSG Squad News

Out: Kurzawa (hamstring,) Ben Arfa
Doubts: Maxwell, Silva, Pastore, Aurier

Unai Emery patrols the PSG sideline while also looking like
he's got a stomachache.
After Laurent Blanc left the club this summer, Les Rouge-et-Bleu turned to Sevilla and three-time Europa League winner Unai Emery to take the reins. Funny thing is, now that the Europa League winner gets an automatic place in the Champions League, that implies that to win the title consecutively now, you'd have to come in third in the group stage, which Sevilla did against the likes of Manchester City and Juventus last year.

Still, Emery has handled the pressures of European competition with aplomb in years past and there's no reason to doubt his pedigree. PSG are favorites in the group and this fixture will go a long way in deciding who wins it. The Parisian side have no outright injury absences, but Emery will still sweat over the fitness of a quintet of players, especially on the back line.

Defender Layvin Kurzawa, who has scored four goals so far this season, was removed from PSG's draw on Friday night with a hamstring problem and is expected to miss out. Maxwell is a doubt as well, but is expected to be in. There is a chance, however, that PSG could have only three fit defenders available and may need to start Presnel Kimpembe out of position at left back. There are doubts over Thiago Silva, Javier Pastore and Serge Aurier as well, though Silva, the club captain, is the most likely of the group to start. However, he has not yet played a minute this season. All three have provisionally been referred to as being available.

Emery is expected to use Alphonse Areola as his cup keeper, meaning a drop to the bench for Kevin Trapp. Hatem Ben Arfa, who signed for the club from Nice this summer, looks like he might have been dropped from the squad entirely.

Predicted XI: Areola, Meunier, Silva, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Verratti, Motta, Matuidi, Moura, Cavani, Di María.

Current Form

Robert Berić celebrates his late equalizer against PSG in the
92nd minute on Friday.
Arsenal are starting to build a little bit of momentum, if you can call it that. They've won two since dropping five points across their opening two, but the first win came before the international break and the second came with Arsenal only nabbing the lead in the 94th minute. Arsenal have improved to sixth in the table, but they remain five points back of the pace-setters, as Manchester City are the only club through four fixtures to keep a 100% record so far.

Nobody in the Ligue 1 is 100% and PSG are equally sitting on seven points through the opening four fixtures. PSG began their season winning the French Super Cup (the Trophée des Champions) with a 4-1 win over Lyon, then opened the league campaign with successive victories: 1-0 over Bastia (a club that still starts Sébastien Squillaci...) and 3-0 over Metz. However, before the international break, they fell 3-1 to league leaders Monaco, snapping PSG's 11 match unbeaten run. On Friday, as they came back from the break, they conceded a late injury time equalizer to Saint-Étienne to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Match Facts

Mathieu Flamini scored the opener against PSG in the 2007
Emirates Cup.
While PSG have had a knack for facing Chelsea in the knockout stages in recent years (including each of the last three,) they have only met Arsenal twice before in European competition. That came in the 1994 Cup Winners' Cup semifinal. Arsenal won that tie 2-1 on aggregate, nabbing a 1-1 draw in Paris and a 1-0 win at Highbury to go through to the final, which they won over Parma.

Arsenal and PSG's most recent, non-competitive match against each other came in the 2007 Emirates Cup; Arsenal won 2-1. Hold your hats here for the goal scorers: Arsenal led 2-0 through Mathieu Flamini and Nicklas Bendter before Péguy Luyindula pulled one back in the 80th for the visitors.

Arsenal have never lost a match on French soil, to a French side at least (never mind a certain final 10 years ago.) That match aside, in 11 games in France, Arsenal have a record of eight wins and three draws. In recent years, Arsenal have picked up road wins against Marseille in 2011, Montpellier in 2012, Marseille again in 2013, and Monaco in 2015. The first three were all group stage matches; the Monaco match, of course, was a 2-0 victory in the second leg of the Round of 16, but Arsenal were eliminated on away goals.

PSG's home record against English sides is decently strong: three wins, three draws, and just one loss. The loss came in 2004 to Chelsea, 3-0, in the group stage. Last year, as PSG faced Chelsea in the Round of 16, then Manchester City in the quarterfinal, the French side won both legs against Chelsea, but drew 2-2 at home to City and lost the second leg at the Etihad.

The Referee

¡Ay, caramba!
The match officials are from Hungary; the referee is Viktor Kassai. This is not a great omen for Arsenal away from home. Prior to 2004, Arsenal had a record of three losses, all in unpleasant circumstances and all in road games, with Kassai as the referee. Since then, the Gunners have picked up back-to-back home wins, 2-0 over Borussia Dortmund and 3-0 over Dinamo Zagreb, with the Hungarian in the middle.

But, back to those losses. The first came in 2010 as Arsenal crashed to a 2-0 loss at Braga in the Portuguese stadium built half inside a rock quarry. In 2012, Arsenal found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 loss to AC Milan with Kassai in the middle in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie. In 2013, Arsenal were on the wrong end of a 2-0 loss to Napoli with Kassai in the middle as well; he controversially sent off Mikel Arteta in that match as well.

While this will be Kassai's sixth Arsenal match, it will only be his second PSG match. The first was a 4-0 win for the Parisian club against Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of the 2014 Round of 16; PSG went on to win the tie 6-1 on aggregate, but lost to Chelsea on away goals in the next round.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Basel v. Ludogorets Razgrad; St. Jakob-Park, Basel
  • Tuesday: Benfica v. Beşiktaş; Estádio da Luz, Benfica
  • Tuesday: Dynamo Kyiv v. Napoli; Olympic Stadium, Kiev
  • Tuesday: Barcelona v. Celtic; Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Tuesday: Manchester City v. Borussia Mönchengladbach; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Tuesday: Bayern Munich v. Rostov; Allianz Arena, Munich
  • Tuesday: PSV Eindhoven v. Atlético Madrid; Philips Stadion, Eindhoven
  • Wednesday: Bayer Leverkusen v. CSKA Moscow;  BayArena, Levekusen
  • Wednesday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Monaco; Wembley Stadium, London
  • Wednesday: Legia Warsaw v. Borussia Dortmund; Polish Army Stadium, Warsaw
  • Wednesday: Real Madrid v. Sporting CP; Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Club Brugge v. Leicester City; Jan Breydel Stadium, Bruges
  • Wednesday: Porto v. Copenhagen; Estádio do Dragão, Porto
  • Wednesday: Juventus v. Sevilla; Juventus Stadium, Turin
  • Wednesday: Lyon v. Dinamo Zagreb; Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Décines-Charpieu
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a global pharmaceutical company. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for half-off your next prescription.