In an unlikely turn of events, Arsenal dispatched Basel 4-1 but also finished top of Group A, as Ludogorets stole a draw against PSG. The Gunners finished top of the group whilst also going unbeaten for the first time since the 2005/06 season – the same year they reached the final. Due to this, Arsenal fans have started to believe that this year might just be the year that Arsenal become the top dogs in Europe but before getting too carried away, let’s take a look at the potential teams Arsenal could face in the Round of 16 ahead of the draw on Monday in Nyon.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Arsenal if the year where they finish top of the group, didn’t also coincide with the year when European giants Bayern and Real Madrid finished second in their respective groups. Although Arsenal could play both teams, they do have the crucial second leg at home. So here are the potential opponents and the probabilities for each to be drawn against Arsenal.
Real Madrid: Probability 21%
The current holders of the title, 11 times winners, yet second in their group after their draw with Dortmund in Madrid. It’s been a very good season so far under Zinédine Zidane, unbeaten in the last 34 games, they finally look capable of taking La Liga away from Atletico and Barca’s claws. This is probably the toughest possible draw for Arsenal, even if they have proved in a certain game that the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu can be silenced, circa 2006.
Benfica: Probability 13%
The Portuguese league champions are having a good season so far, qualifying without any trouble, with the help of the very experienced Luisao and players like Eduardo Salvio and Guedes to provide the threat going forward. There are no easy draws in the Champions League, Monaco proved that in 2015 but it certainly looks like a better opponent to face than Real Madrid for the Gunners.
FC Porto: Probability 13%
Another Portuguese team, Porto finished second in their group behind Premier League champions Leicester, even after trashing them 5-0 on matchday 6. Porto are a team struggling with internal problems and players like Brahimi and Hector Herrera being pushed out the club, there again they could still pose a good challenge to Arsène Wenger’s men come February, especially with the on form André Silva up front.
Bayer Leverkusen: Probability 16%
Second in their group behind Monaco but in front of Tottenham, Leverkusen are enjoying a more difficult season in the Bundesliga than they are in Europe. Being left adrift of the title race, currently led by RB Leipzig, but they still have a lot of talent in their squad that could hurt Arsenal, with players like Tin Jedvaj, Jonathan Tah, Bernd Leno, Julian Brandt or former United striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. A potential tricky draw for Arsenal, even if they could/should beat them without too much trouble.
Sevilla: Probability 21%
Jorge Sampaoli’s men, the three times Europa League winners are finally through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and Arsenal could face them on their road to Cardiff, with former Gunner, Samir Nasri coming back to the Emirates. Sevilla are still finding their feet this season, juggling between bad football and a few tactical masterclasses; a huge motivator and a proven tactician, Sampaoli is definitely Sevilla’s biggest asset but their lack of experience in Europe’s top competition ccostlyove costlty against an Arsenal side that has now qualified for the knockout stage for 19 years in a row.
Bayern Munich: Probability 16%
Last but certainly not least, Bayern, again. This time they’re the one finishing second in their group behind Atletico Madrid and are going through some tough times with new coach Carlo Ancelotti. After losing to Rostov, while sitting second behind RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, they’re still one of Europe’s big boys and a favourite to win the trophy in Cardiff in May.Arsenal have proven they can beat Bayern, just not over two legs, maybe this is the year when they finally put that to bed.
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