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Wenger to guide Gunners to another Champions League group stage

Arsenal, many people’s dark horses to win the Premier League this term at 5/1, must first qualify for the Champions League group stage.

Despite playing in Turkey, the Gunners are odds-on at 4/6 to beat Besiktas in the first leg, who are 4/1. Ex-Chelsea striker Demba Ba will line up for the home side, and is 15/8 to find the net anytime, after hitting a hat-trick in the previous round against Feyenoord. Arsenal, however, eased past Fenerbahce this time last campaign, so should have enough to combat the threat that could emanate from Slaven Bilic’s side. For Arsenal to win the first leg, and both teams to score however, Coral are offering odds of 3/1 with a maximum £20 bet.

After starting the last two matches from the bench, Olivier Giroud is expected to feature in the starting IX, and scored in Champions League victories over Napoli and Borussia Dortmund last term. He is 7/1 to notch two or more goals and, with a supporting cast of Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, there is a great chance of doing so.

The latter has started the season in the same fashion as last. Although, not his best performance against Crystal Palace, he kept on going, and was eventually rewarded with a goal. He is fast becoming one of the most exciting central midfielders in the Premier League, and has a shade of Cesc Fabgregas and Frank Lampard about him. To emulate his performance against the Eagles and score last, he is 6/1.

Arsene Wenger is sweating on the fitness of centre back Laurent Koscielny after the Frenchman limped off against Palace, while left back Keiran Gibbs also departed. The manager is willing to take Per Mertesacker as cover just in case, however admits it will be a last resort, with the German originally due to return to action against Everton, along with fellow World Cup winners Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski.

“We will assess him [Koscielny] and, if he is capable of playing, I will play him,” said Wenger. “I planned to bring the Germans back in contention for Everton but, in case of emergency, I will take Mertesacker. It’s a bit early for him – ideally he would need one more week’s preparation – but he’s willing to play.

“The Gibbs situation makes it even more [significant]. We have Bellerín, who is 19 but a player I am certain can come in, but we are a bit short,” continued the Arsenal manager. “I have Ignasi Miquel as well who can travel. We will see – I hope that Koscielny responds well.”

Also on the Besiktas books is former Fulham attacking midfielder Kerim Frei, who is 6/1 to score anytime, after slotting against Feyenoord.

For Arsenal, the only objective is to qualify for the group stage.