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Champions League Group A profile: Arsenal and PSG a cut above

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | September 4, 2016

Champions League Group A profile

With European football back on our screens this September, Coral experts give Champions League Group A tips, as we examine all eight pools for the best punts and profile the teams, players and coaches.

There is Premier League interest in this group with regular last 16 exit makers Arsenal competing with Basel, Ludogorets Razgrad and PSG to progress to the knockout phase.

From a betting perspective, this pool looks pretty cut and dried with the French champions firm favourites both to finish top (8/13) and to qualify (1/10). Do PSG’s prices take into account the absences of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz from attack and defence respectively, though?

Let’s look at the four teams in more detail…

PSG

PSG have dominated French football in recent years, but cannot quite replicate that in Europe.

PSG have dominated French football in recent years, but cannot quite replicate that in Europe.

The Parisians are perennial Champions League quarter-finalists, having reached the last eight in all of the previous four seasons. It’s a stage they haven’t better in more than 20 years since the George Weah vintage.

PSG are also under new management with successful Sevilla boss Unai Emery succeeding Laurent Blanc at the Parc des Princes this summer. All of the Spanish coach’s major cup crowns have been Europa League triumphs.

With vastly more resources at his disposal in Paris than Seville, Emery shall be expected to be win Ligue 1, dominate domestic cup competitions and take PSG to the promised land in Europe.

Yet the French capital club are only joint-seventh favourites in the Champions League outright betting as 16/1 shots to go all the way.

By their exalted standards, PSG’s summer spending is not all that much, totalling €57m in tangible talent we’ll see in Europe.

Signing up two Euro 2016 performers in Belgium defender Thomas Meunier and Poland anchorman Grzegorz Krychowiak, they have also taken punts on Spanish forward Jese Rodriguez and maverick French talent Hatem Ben Arfa.

Losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and gaining Hatem Ben Arfa (above) is one reason to approach PSG bets with caution from among Champions League Group A tips.

Losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and gaining Hatem Ben Arfa (above) is one reason to approach PSG bets with caution from among Champions League Group A tips.

From Newcastle United and Hull City flop to the Champions League via a stint at Nice, Ben Arfa is certainly a wildcard, but hardly a gamble on a free transfer for PSG. Where Emery’s risk lies in purchasing no direct replacement for Ibrahimovic and his guaranteed goals.

Uruguay marksman Edinson Cavani finally gets his way and should play down the middle, but will he reward the Parisians by being as prolific as the Swedish superstar? Cavani comes in as a 25/1 chance to be Champions League top goalscorer.

Arsenal

For that reason, it might be worth a wager to side with the Gunners pipping PSG to top spot. Arsenal odds in Europe to win this pool are not without merit at 13/8.

While Emery knows his defence has been weakened by Luiz leaving Paris to return to Chelsea, Arsene Wenger is hopeful the signing of Shkodran Mustafi will strengthen the rearguard at the Emirates.

Long-serving French gaffer Wenger guided the Gunners to the 2006 Champions League final where they lost to Barcelona, and in honesty Arsenal have never looked like getting near to the business end again since.

Although the Mustafi move solves a long held near, landing Spanish forward Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna is hardly the marquee signing in attack many Gunners fans were hopeful for.

Perez will have a lot to prove that he is a credible alternative to and/or better than Olivier Giroud, Alxis Sanchez and Theo Walcott up top.

Granit Xhaka will be expected to step into midfield and fill in for older heads that the Gunners have let go.

Granit Xhaka will be expected to step into midfield and fill in for older heads that the Gunners have let go.

Grabbing Switzerland midfield shield Granit Xhaka before Euro 2016 renews the engine room where there has been a considerable overhaul this summer.

Arsenal let ageing trio Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky move on, while Jack Wilshere has been loaned to Bournemouth to prove his fitness and get regular football.

With Carl Jenkinson and Danny Welbeck long-term injury absentees, but cover in place, it will be intriguing to see how the Gunners fare when battling Basel…

Basel

The Swiss Super League side have caused problems for Premier League clubs in Europe before, and Arsenal may be no exception. With odds of 2/1 to qualify for the Champions League knockout phase, Basel will be treated warily by other sides in Group A.

It’s because they’ve reached the last 16 twice in the last five seasons, as well as the 2013 Europa League semis, that they command respect. Oh, and stocky Ivory Coast striker Seydou Doumbia has returned to Switzerland on loan.

A flop during a temporary spell with Newcastle last term, Doumbia hardly played, but was prolific for the Young Boys of Berne further back in his career. His arrival should offset the sale of Breel Embolo to Schalke nicely.

Doumbia has Austria target man Marc Janko for company in the striking department and he was top scorer last term with 20 goals in all competitions.

Another miss for Urs Fischer‘s Basel is the retirement of ex-Argentina defender Walter Samuel. They’ve got down the South American route again, bringing in Colombia international Eder Alvarez Balanta.

Basel midfielder Taulant Xhaka will come up against younger sibling Granit when the Swiss side play Arsenal home and away.

Basel midfielder Taulant Xhaka will come up against younger sibling Granit when the Swiss side play Arsenal home and away.

Eagle-eyed punters will remember Iceland’s Birkir Bjarnason and Albania’s Taulant Xhaka (pictured above), brother of Arsenal new boy Granit, from Euro 2016 in central midfield for Basel.

Ludogorets Razgrad

Bulgarian boys Ludogorets Razgrad may ring a bell as they proved thorny foes for Liverpool in the Champions League the season before last, but no other side in Group A is likely to play as openly as Brendan Rodgers’ boys did.

Rank 50/1 outsiders to win the pool and 7/1 to make it to the knockout phase, Razgrad are a bunch of little-known Brazilians and high-profile Romania pair Claudiu Keseru and Cosmin Moti, plus the odd other foreigner.

Madagascar playmaker Anicet Andrianantenaina Abel is pretty exotic for Bulgarian football, but Ludogorets really look like also-rans in the group.

Champions League Group A games

All matches are 19:45 UK time.

Tuesday, September 13th
PSG v Arsenal
Basel v Ludogorets Razgrad

Wednesday, September 28th
Ludogorets Razgrad v PSG
Arsenal v Basel

Wednesday, October 19th
Arsenal v Ludogorets Razgrad
PSG v Basel

Tuesday, November 1st
Ludogorets Razgrad v Arsenal
Basel v PSG

Wednesday, November 23rd
Arseal v PSG
Ludogorets Razgrad v Basel

Tuesday, December 6th
PSG v Ludogorets Razgrad
Basel v Arsenal

Related

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