Champions League: Gameweek Five
Arsenal v PSG
Arsenal have walked this group in reality. The 3-2 win against Ludogorets at the beginning of November sealed the deal, but you could have been watching the teams being drawn into their groups earlier in the year, seen who Arsenal were thrown in with, and drawn the same conclusion there and then.
Paris Saint-Germain were going to be their only real competitor. The two sides drew in Paris on match-day one of the group stages, but since then both sides have gone on to win their next three games, each conceding only two goals in that time.
PSG find themselves in a bit of a domestic pickle at present; that pickle being that they aren’t top of the Ligue 1 table. It is of course Nice, who are sitting three points clear of the champions.
For the last five seasons, since Qatar Sports Investment become the majority shareholder, turning PSG into one of the richest clubs in the world, winning the French league title has been the primary concern, but the Champions League has always been the ambition. They have walked the last four league seasons, having finished up with a thirty-one point lead over second place last season, an eight-point lead the season before, nine points before that, and twelve in the 12/13 season.
But in each of those seasons, the Parisians have exited the Champions League in the quarter-final stage. Last season they came up against Man City in the last eight, and with the league already wrapped up they should have been putting every ounce of effort into getting past them.
But they faltered, and allowed Man City quite an easy path into the semis.
Unai Emery will be looking to change this. Certainly, with his glittering European record with Sevilla, it will have been one of the main reasons the PSG owners wanted to acquire his services.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have not enjoyed such league success. With the results they’ve been getting thus far however, Wenger will certainly want to change that.
But, just as it has PSG in these past few years, serious progression in the Champions League has a habit of eluding Arsenal.
I honestly can’t see Arsenal maintaining a solid league solid, while simultaneously going strong in the Champions League. It feels as though for the last couple of years, the club genuinely have to decide between one or the other. But you could also argue that their squad has been deeper than it has for a while now, and perhaps balancing the two competitions at once could be a possibility.
This match is a dead rubber. There is top spot to fight for, but you look at the other groups, a lot of them containing more than one elite club, and you realise that even finishing top of the group could land you with a very tough opponent in the last sixteen.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Man City
Man City…….. 7
Things are a little more interesting over in Group C. Guardiola and City travel to Germany to face a Gladbach side currently without a win in six league games, having lost four of them, and have won just one of their four group-stage games.
City, however, are not in blistering form themselves. Yes they are currently sitting in third place in the Premier League table, level with Liverpool and just a point behind leaders Chelsea, but they’ve managed just two wins in six league games, and, perhaps just as worryingly, have kept just two clean sheets in ten league games.
A win against the German side would see City into the next round. Barcelona should be expected to beat Celtic in Scotland (although, remember 2012?). The group could easily be wrapped up tonight.
But, say Gladbach were to beat City, it would really heat things up. They would be level on points going into the last round of fixtures. Surely the last thing Guardiola imagined doing when he arrived in Manchester was overseeing games in the Europa League. It just isn’t his level, but it would be a nervy finish to the group stage should Gladbach pull off a win tomorrow night.
Having said all that, I don’t think such an outcome will transpire.
Written by David Newman