Arsenal v Paris Saint-Germain
Arsenal started the month with a fine comeback win against Ludogorets in the Champions League, battling back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 – though it’s worth asking how exactly the Gunners managed to go two down within 15 minutes to the Bulgarian side.
In any case, the theory that Arsenal tend to go a bit rubbish in November hasn’t exactly been disproved in the last few weeks; Arsene Wenger’s side drew at home against Tottenham thanks to a Kevin Wimmer own goal, and scraped a barely deserved 1-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Arsenal and PSG both have ten points, and with both sides already having qualified, whoever wins this game will top the group. PSG have six goals from their last two matches in Ligue 1, conceding just a single goal in their last six games in all competitions.
There’s not much in the way of meaningful recent head to heads between the two sides either – the teams drew 1-1 at the Parc des Princes back in September, and before that the last time they met was some 22 years earlier in the Cup Winners Cup, Arsenal winning at Highbury by the only goal after the sides had drawn 1-1 in Paris a few weeks earlier.
Arsenal’s general pattern in the Champions League group stage is to progress in second place, however; a year ago they finished second to Bayern Munich, and they finished second to Borussia Dortmund in 2014 and 2013, second to Schalke in 2012; you have to go back to 2011 for the last time Arsenal finished on top of their group.
Whether you want to call it a trend or a psychological issue, the Gunners have an issue here – and they’re not playing especially convincingly at the moment. PSG are in good nick, and have also performed well in London in recent years, beating Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge back in March and holding the same side to a 2-2 draw in the capital a year earlier.
We’d love to see Arsenal win this game but history suggests it’s certainly not in the bag for the Gunners. Arsenal are 13/10 to win this one, with PSG 9/4 shots – the draw is available at 49/20.
Celtic v Barcelona
The Scottish club took a proper trouncing at the Camp Nou earlier this season, Lionel Messi scoring a hat-trick as Barcelona swept to a 7-0 victory over Brendan Rodgers’ side. But Celtic atoned for that drubbing, at least in part, with a 3-3 draw against Man City a couple of weeks later. Meanwhile, City did Barca 3-1 at the Etihad at the start of the month. So, er, anything could happen right?
As it goes, Barcelona could only manage a goalless draw at home to Malaga at the weekend (despite the opponents being down to nine men at the end of the match), but Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta were all absent. And Celtic supporters will doubtless be hoping that Messi, who missed the La Liga game through sickness, will also skip the trip to Glasgow.
That said, even without Messi, Barca could confirm their progress to the next round simply by drawing here, depending on other results; if they win, they’ll definitely have booked their ticket to the knockout stages. As for Celtic, for a shot at finishing in the top two not only do they need a win here, they’re also dependent upon City losing.
Maybe the Glasgow side should focus on the positives; for instance, they could look to the performance back in November 2012, when Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt each found the net to defeat the Spanish side 2-1.
But the club will need a significantly improved performance from the last time they played at home in the Champions League; Borussia Monchengladbach won 2-0 last month, with Celtic looking bereft of inspiration against the German club.
Since then, the two sides have played again, with that game ending in a draw, courtesy of a Moussa Dembele penalty. Could the 20-year-old find the net for Celtic this week too? Dembele is 19/5 to score at any time, while the Celtic win is a huge 10/1. You can back the Barca victory at 27/100, or take the draw at 5/1.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Man City
With just one win in their last six games (all competitions), Monchengladbach are struggling at the moment. They were also torn apart 4-0 by City at the Etihad back in September, as Sergio Aguero notched up a hat-trick.
If City can repeat that performance with a victory on Gladbach’s home turf, they’ll be guaranteed a place in the next round. Even a draw could be enough for Pep Guardiola’s side, assuming Celtic lose to Barca. And the home side are yet to record a win on home turf so far in this campaign, losing to the Catalans and being held by Celtic.
City’s most recent Champions League encounter was that famous victory over Barcelona, when the Manchester side put three goals past one of the favourites to win this tournament. That was a home game however; on the road, City have typically been less potent, being comprehensively outplayed at the Camp Nou earlier this year when they lost 4-0 to Barca, and drawing to Celtic. City were also beaten by Wednesday’s opponents at Borussia Park a year ago.
Don’t take anything for granted, is the message here then. The hosts are 31/10 to win the game, while City are favourites at 17/20 – or you can back the draw at 14/5.
If you’re expecting another masterclass from Aguero, the Argentine is 51/50 to score at any time; after Ilkay Gundogan’s brace against Barca in City’s last match, could it be worth backing the German to do something special again here? Gundogan is 4/1 to score at any time.
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