Arsenal will be anxious for a win when they welcome Galatasaray to the Emirates Stadium for Wednesday’s Champions League clash. Arsene Wenger’s men began their attempts to make it out of the group stage for a 15th successive season with a defeat to Borussia Dortmund that could have been far heavier than the final 2-0 score line. Only once in that impressive run of qualification have Arsenal failed to win either of their first two games, that when claiming a historic 5-1 at Inter Milan in 2003. Wenger will be hoping that it doesn’t require a similar feat this time around.
Galatasaray will have very different ideas, and the Turkish giants have very recent experience of upsetting one of Europe’s traditional powerhouses in the group stage. Last season Juventus went to Istanbul on the final match day needing just a draw to make it through to the knockout phase but on a torrid pitch came away with a 1-0 defeat. Anything other than a win on Wednesday and Arsenal could well be left in a similar position when traveling to the Turkish capital in December. With the Premier League side having already experienced their problems against Turkish opposition this season when surviving a nervy playoff against Besiktas, it would be a far from desirable scenario.
Yet Arsenal’s preparations for the match have been disrupted by further fitness concerns. A fourth draw in six Premier League matches this season, at home to north London rivals Tottenham on Saturday, was made all the more disappointing by yet more names being added to their already lengthy injury list. Having seen his defensive options reduced to just four players, thanks to injuries to Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal, he witnessed his entire starting central midfield trio exiting the pitch with varying ailments.
While there is good news regarding Jack Wilshere, whose latest ankle problem is not nearly as bad as feared and there is even a slim chance he could feature against Galatasaray, the prognoses for Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta are not nearly so positive. Ramsey is expected to miss a month after pulling his hamstring, while Arteta will be absent for around three weeks with a calf strain. Given Wilshere’s history, he is unlikely to be risked on Wednesday, meaning Arsenal are set to field a whole different midfield. That could well see Mathieu Flamini lining up alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It should also mean Mesut Özil again moving back to his favored central role. After a disappointing start to the season when being positioned out on the left, the German World Cup winner excelled when switched to his favored No. 10 role against Aston Villa just over a week ago and inspired Arsenal to a 3-0 win. Yet on Saturday, Özil was back starting from the left and having a negligible impact before his switch inside later on helped trigger Arsenal’s best spell of the match and an equalizer. Now, against a team from the country to which Özil claims he owes his technique, he could get a chance to put in the kind of performance that makes it difficult even for the notoriously stubborn Wenger to ignore.
Yet Arsenal will be aware of the need to guard against the famed No. 10 among their opponents’ ranks. Wesley Sneijder was the man who scored the crucial goal against Juventus last season and is now the biggest star in the Galatasaray squad following the departure of Didier Drogba in the summer. There is a new coach, too, with one Italian, Roberto Mancini, being replaced by another, in Cesare Prandelli. After ending his four-year reign in charge of Italy following his country’s failure to make it out of their group at the 2014 World Cup, Prandelli has enjoyed a less than ideal start to his return to club management. As well as dropping five points in the league against teams they were expected to beat, Galatasaray started the Champions League with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Anderlecht.
Prediction: Arsenal were given real trouble by a well-organized Besiktas side in the playoffs, but it is not in Prandelli’s nature to be so pragmatic. Galatasaray’s defense is also not the most convincing and if Özil and Danny Welbeck, together with the in-form Alexis Sanchez, can combine as they did against Aston Villa, then Arsenal should cause plenty of problems. At the other end, Galatasaray have not been prolific scorers so far this season, with Burak Yilmaz, who has three of their five goals in all competitions, still the man to watch. Despite the injuries, Arsenal still have enough quality to come out on top at the Emirates.
Arsenal 2-0 Galatasaray
Kickoff time: 2.45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1
Live stream: Fox Soccer 2Go