Standard Liege v Arsenal, Champions League, September 16, 2009
You can bet that Eddie McGoldrick will be tuning into this contest.
Back in 1993-94, Arsenal faced Standard in the Cup Winners Cup, a competition which they eventually won by beating Parma 1-nil in the final, but early on the competition the North Londoners showed they meant business by mauling the Belgians 10-nil on aggregate, including a 7-nil thrashing in Liege.
Such a wide margin of victory is unlikely to materialise on Wednesday night yet, despite being well over a decade on from that memorable tie in the early 90s, Arsenal still stand head and shoulders above Liege and the Wenger Boys will be confident of victory.
Standard come into the match with reasons to be both happy and sad. Having scooped back-to-back titles in Belgium, Standard have begun the new season without losing any of their opening six matches, however their form has been rather patchy with just two wins and four draws. In their last match, Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez’s brace helped Liege to a 3-nil win over KV Mechelen.
Sadly though, Liege’s side has been hit with some heavy blows in recent weeks. Last year’s Belgian Player-of-the-Year, Axel Witsel, incurred a mammoth 11-game ban after breaking Anderlecht defender Marcin Wasilewskiâ€™s leg in a fortnight ago, and last weekend influential captain Steven Defour broke his metatarsal which is set to sideline the pivotal midfielder for six weeks.
Standard will look towards highly-rated left-winger Milan Jovanovic (10/3 to score), and strikers Igor De Camargo (10/1 to score first) and Dieumerci Mbokani (7/2 to score) to lead Laszlo Boloni’s side to victory.
Until late Monday night, Arsenal fans would have been fearing that their Flemish adventure could turn out to be a real banana skin. Liverpool only managed to edge Standard 1-nil on aggregate last season in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, and having lost their last two consecutive matches to the red and blue halves of Manchester, more gloom appeared to be hovering overhead.
And then came the UEFA decision to overturn Eduardo da Silva’s (6/1 to score first) two match ban, and suddenly the world is looking slightly rosier for Arsene Wenger and his charges.
With Andrei Arshavin and Theo Walcott still sidelined with injury, the availability of Cro-zilian Eduardo alongside Nicklas Bendtner (6/4 to score first) and Robin van Persie (9/2 to score first) gives the Professor another much-needed option in the Arsenal attack.
Further back, the Gunners midfield looks solid with Cesc Fabregas (11/4 to score), Alex Song and Denilson all likely to start, while Tomas Rosicky (10/3 to score) will be looking to get some more minutes for the first team having made a scoring return against City last Saturday.
With Olympiakos and faltering Dutch champion AZ Alkmaar also in the group, Arsenal are widely tipped to win the group, and they will aim start their Champions League campaign with a positive, opening day victory.
101predicts: Standard Liege 0 – Arsenal 1 (9/2)
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