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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Arsenal ready to hunt down Foxes in opener

Gunners should get off to a winning start

Alexandre Lacazette is Arsenal's big summer signing
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Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League/Main Event, 7.45pm Friday

The waiting is over. It's time for the talking to stop. The Emirates plays host to the opening match of a new Premier League campaign that promises to be full of intrigue.

Six teams are aiming for the title but two of those won't even qualify for the Champions League directly with Manchester City heading the market from Manchester United and Chelsea with Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal also in the mix.

Another ten or so sides will be looking over the shoulders at the prospect of relegation given the bar has been raised over the summer with many clubs spending large, while promoted duo Brighton and Newcastle are both odds-on to stay up.

Leicester are one of the few clubs who can be fairly confident of staying around mid-table, although the fixture list has been unkind to them and Arsenal should get favourite-backers off to a flyer even if the visiting Foxes make life tricky.

A better bet could be to take Arsenal to win in a game featuring under 3.5 goals with neither side at full-strength.

Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification last term but still finished the season in reasonably good spirits, claiming six successive victories in a run that culminated in them beating Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final in May.

Arsene Wenger's side overcame the same opponents at Wembley on penalties in the Community Shield and their only defeat in ten games since switching to a back three came at Tottenham.

Since Christmas Arsenal have won nine Premier League games at the Emirates and eight of those featured under 3.5 goals.

A Romelu Lukaku penalty is the only goal they have conceded in their last five fixtures and there is just about enough quality in the home ranks to finish the job despite Alexis Sanchez's injury and doubts regarding other players.

Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal's record new signing, arrives from Lyon with a respectable career minutes-per-goal record of 155 and Leicester also have issues in midfield where Danny Drinkwater and Vicente Iborra are both sidelined.

Craig Shakespeare will be hoping his new-look front two of Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho can do some damage but that partnership may need a bit of work, while it will be interesting to see whether Riyad Mahrez is selected given he continues to be linked with a move to Roma.

Twelve of Leicester's last 14 away defeats featured no more than three goals and both of those that went over 3.5 goals were games in which City made a host of changes - at Porto in a Champions League dead rubber and their trip to Everton before an away date at Atletico Madrid.

Arsenal to win & under 3.5 goals
1pt 6-4 Betway, Coral, Ladbrokes

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Team news

Alexis Sanchez joins Gabriel Paulista, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin on the sidelines. Laurent Koscielny is suspended, while Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker and Jack Wilshere are doubts.

Vicente Iborra, Danny Drinkwater and Rob Huth are injured.

Key stat
Arsenal have won by one goal in each of their last four home matches against Leicester.

Arsenal's only defeat in ten games since switching to a back three came at Tottenham
E.W. Terms
Sky bet