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CL Preview: Arsenal to dominate, City & Pep face toughest test yet

Messi Man CityIt’s another big night of Champions League football with Arsenal looking to all but secure their passage into the last 16 while it’s a huge night in Catalonia as Pep Guardiola returns to Barcelona with Manchester City.

Guardiola’s biggest test yet with Man City
Guardiola’s new side head to Nou Camp already two points behind Barcelona in Group C after being held by Celtic in their last match.
City go into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw with Everton after Maarten Stekelenburg saved penalties from Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, meaning they have gone two straight games without a win in the Premier League.

A defeat for City would open up the opportunity for Celtic or Borussia Monchengladbach to leapfrog them in the table at the halfway point.

An impressive start to their season was halted after a draw against Celtic, they went on to lose to Tottenham before the weekend’s draw meaning Guardiola is now winless in three games. Guardiola still has work to do with Celtic, Tottenham and Everton all being able to expose Man City defensively as well as in high positions where they seem to struggle to cope with the pressure that sides put them under.

Barcelona are Barcelona and it is a hard ask for any side to get a result at the Camp Nou, they haven’t lost at home in the group stages of the Champions League in 20 attempts winning 18 and drawing two, with Rubin Kazan the last team to pick up 3 points in Catalonia, beating them 2-1 back in 2009.

A key element in this will be Sergio Busquets who has been playing well for Spain although for Barcelona in Europe he has been targeted by sides who have been able to cut out him from the game limiting Barcelona to play through a high press game, can City stop that?

Despite Luis Enrique being flexible in his formation selection, on Saturday he went from a 3-4-3 to a 4-4-2 however it is expected that he will opt for the 4-3-3 which we’ve seen most often, Guardiola is also expected to line up this way so could we see a game with the two sides cancelling each other out?

Luis Enrique will be desperate to out tactic and outthink Guardiola so we could see the usual, Busquets drop between the two centre backs with the full backs high and wide however it will be stupid of Guardiola to be bold enough to play three up front for the entirety of the game. They will likely look to unsettle Barcelona at the correct moments and the City press will be a key component in this.

Team News
Sergio Aguero is expected to return to Manchester City’s starting line-up.
The striker came off the bench in Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw with Everton, as did captain Vincent Kompany, whose chances of coming into the first XI this time around appear less clear.

Barcelona have won all four of their previous encounters with City, all in the last 16 of the Champions League (2013/14 and 2014/15). Can Guardiola end that run at the 5th time of asking?

Qualification is in sight for Arsenal
Arsenal face their Bulgarian opponents in back-to-back Champions League matches, knowing two wins will likely secure a place in the last 16.

They drew their opening Group A fixture against PSG, before beating Basel 2-0, part of a 6 game winning streak in all competitions and have not tasted defeat since the 4-3 loss to Liverpool in their first match of the season.

It’s unfamiliar territory for the Gunners who usually at this point find themselves chasing top spot, however they’re in control of their own destiny meaning two victories, against a side in Ludogorets who they should beat comfortably in both games, should secure qualification.

Arsene Wenger’s men haven’t remained unbeaten in their first three Champions League group games since 2011/12, and have been handed tough knockout matches due their inability to win their group. That stat alone tells you how it’s been for Arsenal in the past few seasons.

Team News
Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey both trained on Tuesday but manager Arsene Wenger wants to give them longer to recover from respective toe and hamstring injuries.
David Ospina will replace Petr Cech in goal as he has done in the previous two Champions League outings while Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck (both knee) are still absent.
Midfielder Francis Coquelin could start on Wednesday after returning from a knee injury in the 3-2 defeat of Swansea on Saturday.

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