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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Russians unlikely to halt Arsenal's Europa League progress

CSKA were poor in first-leg defeat at the Emirates

Pontus Wernbloom (left) is a goal threat for CSKA Moscow
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Europa League quarter-final second leg
BT Sport 2, 8.05pm Thursday

Arsenal have one foot in the Europa League semi-finals following their 4-1 win against CSKA Moscow in London last week and they should have little trouble finishing the job in Russia.

The Gunners’ indifferent away form – just four road wins in their last 15 in all competitions – suggests they might be a bit on the short side, but it’s questionable if CSKA boast the tools to really trouble them.

Arsene Wenger would happily take an uneventful night’s work as he closes in on a first European trophy and even though the Gunners rarely do things easily, this should be one occasion when he can enjoy an incident-free evening.

Given that he has no need to take risks, the draw at the VEB Arena is probably a fair runner.

The Army Men have to show some fight after their wretched first-half performance at The Emirates.

Viktor Goncharenko’s men have since lost 2-1 at home to Dinamo Moscow, a result that all but wrecks any hope of challenging for the Russian title.

They have also lost home European ties against Manchester United, Basel and Lyon this season.

There is some class going forward with Alan Dzagoev at the heart of most of their good things, but there’s also an alarming lack of pace with a veteran back line that seems like it’s been around for centuries.

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If CSKA leave Sergei Ignashevich exposed then they will be in danger – the question is how many risks do CSKA want to take with the tie seemingly beyond them? Then again, Roma doubtless thought something similar before the visit of Barcelona on Tuesday.

If they are bold they can breach this Arsenal side. The Gunners are the top scorers in the Europa League this season with 27 goals but they have conceded in three of their last four ties and their record of 43 goals leaked in the Premier League is by far the worst in the top seven.

With Arsenal rated favourites there are some tidy first-goalscorer prices about the hosts' players and few are tidier than Pontus Wernbloom, the Swede who has scored three goals in Europe this term and is likely to spearhead the home attack.

This is a massive night for Arsenal since the Europa League is now their season and Wenger’s last hope of any silverware for 2017-18.

He knows his side can perform away from home based on four wins out of five on the road in Europe. Overall, however, their away record is modest at best.

They are on a run of six straight wins but their last five matches have been at home and they were made to look seriously ordinary by Southampton at the weekend, just as they had been by Stoke a few weeks earlier. They are a long, long way from being a reliable betting proposition.

P Wernbloom first scorer
1pt e-w 9-1 bet365
1pt 11-4 bet365, Betfred

Premier League standings

Russian league standings

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Team news
CSKA Moscow
Wide man Kirill Nababkin returns from suspension. Centre-back Viktor Vasin is out for the season and fellow defender Mario Fernandes is also crocked.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is unavailable. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has joined Santi Cazorla on the treatment table.

Key stat
Arsenal have won only three of their last 12 away matches.

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There’s an alarming lack of pace with a veteran back line that seems like it’s been around for centuries
E.W. Terms
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