Preview: Arsenal vs. Sevilla

Preview: Arsenal vs. Sevilla

With their Premier League unbeaten run now a thing of the past, Arsenal return to Champions League action with the visit of Sevilla to the Emirates for Wednesday’s Group B contest.

The Gunners overcame the Europa League holders 2-1 two weeks ago, and back-to-back successes over the Spaniards could potentially punch their ticket to the knockout rounds with two games to spare.

Like every single one of his Premier League predecessors, Mikel Arteta has inevitably had a few gripes with the level of officiating down the years, but the Arsenal boss took scathing attacks to a whole new level after his side’s 11-game top-flight unbeaten streak came to an excruciating end.

Following an ill-tempered first half versus Newcastle United, where Kai Havertz and Bruno Guimaraes both escaped potential red cards, the Gunners succumbed to a contentious Anthony Gordon winner, which was awarded after the VAR room at Stockley Park conducted three separate checks for an offside, a foul and to determine whether the ball had gone out of play.

“Disgrace”, “sick” and “embarrassed” were just some of the words an incandescent Arteta used in a fiery post-game press conference before Arsenal also slammed the “unacceptable” refereeing standards in the Premier League, although the Gunners left a lot to be desired on the ball at St James’ Park and inexcusably went to sleep as Joe Willock sprinted across the field to keep Jacob Murphy’s shot in play before delivering the killer cross.

Defeat in the North East saw Arsenal slip to fourth in the Premier League rankings, but the Gunners are sitting pretty at the top of their Champions League section with six points, one better off than Lens and four clear of both PSV Eindhoven and upcoming opponents Sevilla.

Thanks to a Gabriel Jesus masterclass at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, the Gunners are potentially just 90 minutes away from sealing a last-16 berth, as victory over Sevilla coupled with a Lens success over PSV would ensure an early top-two finish for the North London club.

Diego Alonso’s Champions League debut in the Sevilla dugout was initially a pleasant affair for the former Uruguay manager, who witnessed his side keep Arsenal at arm’s length before Jesus’s sublime piece of skill and pass released Gabriel Martinelli for a simple finish.

Failure to keep Jesus under control in the second half saw the Brazilian pick out the top corner with panache to double the Gunners’ lead, and while Nemanja Gudelj sparked a nail-biting finale with a header five minutes later, the Sevilla fightback would be left incomplete.

As such, Los Palanganas remain without a top-flight European win this season, and only a superior goal difference sees them currently fend off PSV Eindhoven for the consolation prize of Europa League football, but few Sevilla supporters should turn their nose up to a chance to defend their record-extending seventh second-tier continental crown.

The visitors have at least managed to avoid defeat in three successive domestic games since losing to the Gunners – all of which have come on the road – although two of those contests ended with Sevilla being held to a point by Cadiz and Celta Vigo in La Liga either side of a 3-0 Copa del Rey beating of Quintanar.

Stalemates have also been commonplace in Champions League away games for Sevilla, whose record reads a measly six draws and two losses from their last eight top-tier European games on the road, and their only previous visit to the Emirates in 2007 ended in a comprehensive 3-0 defeat.

Arsenal Champions League form:

Arsenal form (all competitions):

Sevilla Champions League form:

Sevilla form (all competitions):

We say: Arsenal 1-0 Sevilla
No Odegaard meant no creativity for a toothless Arsenal against Newcastle, but a depleted and Ramos-less Sevilla backline should not put up Magpies levels of resistance in North London.

As was the case in Seville, the Gunners are unlikely to march to all three points without suffering a couple of scares along the way, but Arteta’s men should have the wherewithal to edge a close contest and claim the triumph which may or may not send them through to the knockout rounds.

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