The curtain opener for our Champions League campaign begins in Paris, with an away match versus the French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Last season saw the French side motor to the semi-final stage of this competition and canter to yet another domestic title, but times are very different for our opponents.
Laurent Blanc was the coach in place last season, but this summer saw him replaced by Sevilla coach Unai Emery – something of a knockout competition specialisr after winning back-to-back Europa League cups with the Spanish side.
Backed by heavy-hitting financial clout, the Paris side are odds-on favourites to start this seasons European opener with a win, but there are many other factors that perhaps may make bookies eat their words somewhat.
Firstly, PSG aren’t exactly rampant this season. Last campaign saw them take part in what was effectively a one-horse-race, but after four games, they lie in 7th spot, three points behind leaders Monaco.
Not only are they searching for consistency, but they are looking for a solution to the injury problems which have suddenly beset them.
Their last game was a 1-1 draw with St Etienne, and one of their shining lights this season, Layvin Kurzawa, was injured. So low are the defensive numbers for Emery to call upon, that he had to draft in midfielder Gregorz Krychowiak to replace the injured Frenchman.
With defensive lynchpin Thiago Silva out with a hip injury, then fringe players such as Maxwell may be implemented. It isn’t only defence where PSG are struggling either.
After last seasons top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed for the red half of Manchester, Jese from Real Madrid was brought in to bolster numbers. It leaves Edinson Cavani as the main striker, and the Uruguayan isn’t exactly pulling up trees for his side.
Whilst Cavani may be easier to deal with for our defenders, Arsenal may be bereft of perhaps their most important player this season – Laurent Koscielny. Late on in the 2-1 victory over Southampton, a stray boot left the Arsenal skipper crumpled on the deck and a doubt for this game. Rob Holding stands by to deputise, in what will be the youngsters biggest game to date.
Alexis Sanchez was on the bench for the game, and made a late cameo, but will surely be on the team sheet for tonight. Aaron Ramsey is approaching full fitness, but this game has come too soon for the Welshman, the same goes for Gabriel.
Key midfielder Granit Xhaka was rested for this game after his exploits for Switzerland, and Coquelin is expected to make way so the burgeoning partnership between the Swiss star and Santi Cazorla can blossom further.
It will be in the heart of the pitch that this match is won, and sparks will fly between two combative players. Xhaka and Marco Verratti will line up against each other and the victor will determine who gets the upper hand on the pitch.
There will be other key battles all over the pitch, and it will be fascinating to see if Mesut Ozil can escape the shackles of Krychowiak to find the space he needs to wreak his own brand of havoc. Can Monreal keep tabs on Lucas Moura? Can Serge Aurier keep Theo and Alexis quiet?
The chance to finally grab top spot in our group is their for the taking, and perhaps avoiding a rough draw for the Last 16. This game will be vital in determining who will sit in pole position for that lucrative position.
Also, a win in Paris against one of the favourites for the whole competition would send a message to future opponents – and fill our players with that magical substance that enable our play to come alive. Confidence.
Another season in the Champions League was minimum reward for last seasons efforts, but now is the time to ensure we make the most of this opportunity.
Our squad is more than capable of going on a run. Now is the time we can make a mark on the pinnacle of club competition.
This match in Paris will be a huge test, but a win could be the catalyst for something very special, in Europe and back in the Premier League, with Hull City next up on Saturday.
Time to shine.