Do-or-die tie for Arsenal in Naples

Updated: Dec 11, 2013, 19:26 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Jayanta Oinam

They have been the best outfit in England this season, so far. After the end of round 15, Arsenal are leading the table with 35 points, five more from Liverpool and Chelsea, who are separated on goal difference. Replicating their domestic form, Gunners are sitting atop in their Champions League group, with 12 points from four wins and a defeat. But the north London side is yet to book their place in the knock-out phase of the continental competition. Group F, which also contains previous edition’s runners up Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Marseille, is still wide open.

A win or draw at the hostile San Paolo, in Naples will give Arsene Wenger’s side a berth in the last 16 of the Europe’s elite club competition. However, if the visiting English side loses to Napoli by three or more goals and Dortmund manage to beat French side Mersaille, who are yet to register a win, the three teams will be tied at 12 points each. Then the goal difference will come into play, which will effectively curtail Arsenal’s European campaign.

Considering the importance of the tie, Wenger has invoked his best possible squad. In their previous meeting at the Emirates Stadium, Mesut Ozil inspired Gunners’ overwhelmed Rafael Benitez’s squad with the German scoring a goal and setting up the second for Olivier Giroud. However, playing an away game against the vastly improved Italian outfit in their own den will provide a different environment. In fact, former Liverpool manager Benitez who is more famous for his exploits in the continental competitions, will surely choose go for a kill in this do-or-die match.

Unlike their previous meeting, the star striker in Gonzalo Higuain will be playing his part in today’s game. And the news of his availability has already made ripples in the Arsenal camp. Wenger has advised his wards to be extra careful when dealing with the Argentine striker. After a hard-fought draw at home with Everton, Wenger would surely like his team to improve and maintain their 13-year non-stop qualification for the knock-out stages in the competition.