After Arsenal pinched a point away at Paris Saint-Germain, they start their Champions League home campaign against FC Basel. This will be the first competitive fixture against both clubs featuring Mohammed Elneny facing his former club and a family reunion for the Xhaka brothers.
Arsène Wenger’s men come into the fixture as favourites after winning five of their last six fixtures in all competitions. However, if last season’s Champions League group performances taught them anything, they must respect Basel. A resilient performance will ensure an Arsenal victory, with a quick start required to prevent a Swiss upset.
Buoyant after Saturday’s 3-0 win over Chelsea and with Alexis Sanchez, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott in good form, Basel should be concerned. Arsenal will miss Olivier Giroud as he serves a one match suspension, while a knee injury forces Francis Coquelin out of contention.
Former Basel midfielder Granit Xhaka is a likely replacement for Coquelin and Lucas Perez could be fancied to lead Arsenal’s attack. David Ospina is likely to retain his position after his heroic showing in Paris with Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi presumably remaining in central defence.
While on paper FC Basel seem to be the underdogs, their recent history and players suggest otherwise. Urs Fischer’s men have won seven consecutive league titles and are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions, including a 1-1 draw with Ludogorets. More alarming for Arsenal is RotBlau’s record of only losing once against English opposition, a run including a famous 2-1 win over Manchester United and two wins over Chelsea.
Basel are likely to play a similar team previously seen against Ludogorets minus defender Manuel Akanji and midfielder Kevin Bua. While the Swiss league leaders have previously had Granit Xhaka, Mohammed Salah and Xherdan Shaqiri, their current squad features some deadly players; the hard tackling brother of Granit, Taulant Xhaka, Austrian international Marc Janko and Roma loanee Seydou Doumbia. In terms of style, Basel like to play a possession focused game meaning the pressing of Sanchez, Walcott and Xhaka will be required to slow down any threatening Swiss attacks.