After picking up a four-point profit from the first leg, Kevin Hatchard's back to preview the second clash between CSKA and Arsenal...
"If Arsenal keep things tight, which they have been doing in Europe recently, then they can break CSKA's spirit. If the pace of the game then drops, this could become a very comfortable night for the Gunners."
CSKA Moscow v Arsenal
Thursday 12 April, 20:05
Live on BT Sport
CSKA paid the price for swashbuckling approach
To their credit, CSKA Moscow went to the Emirates last week and tried to play on the front foot, but as I suspected might be the case, their ponderously slow defensive unit were bamboozled by the speed of Arsenal's attacking play.
Roma have reminded us all that miracles do still happen in football, but there has been little in CSKA's European home form this term which suggests they are capable of a "Russian remontada." They have lost at home to Manchester United, Basel and Lyon in Europe this term, and at the weekend their Russian Premier League title hopes suffered a hammer blow as they lost at home to city rivals Dynamo.
Kiril Nababkin should return to the side after suspension. Other than that, it's expected to be a similar side to the one that was fielded at the Emirates.
Arsenal have eyes on the prize
Despite their obvious deficiencies in the Premier League, Arsenal deserve credit for the way they have learned to negotiate cup competitions. They have won the FA Cup in three of the last four seasons, and this term they reached the final of the League Cup, only to fall short against Manchester City at Wembley.
In the Europa League, they have come alive in the knockout phase. They disposed of Swedish outsiders Ostersunds (despite a blunder-filled defeat in the second leg), and the way they wiped out Milan over two legs was very impressive. They could have panicked after conceding a goal to CSKA, but they attacked with purpose and precision in a 4-1 win.
Arsene Wenger will take no chances here, and will select his strongest available side. Alex Lacazette scored twice against CSKA last week, and should replace the ineligible Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was injured in the first leg, and could miss the rest of the season, unless the Gunners reach the UEL final.
I can understand why Arsenal are [2.1] to win after they bashed CSKA last week, and they did win at Ostersunds and Milan in the last two rounds.
However, they were both first-leg victories, and there is little incentive for Arsenal to chase a win here. If they can break CSKA's spirit with some solid defending in the opening exchanges, they may find they can tiptoe gently through the rest of the match.
On the road in Europe, Arsenal have defended pretty well this term. They kept clean sheets at Ostersunds and Milan, and came away from a trip to Crvena Zvezda with a 1-0 win.
In eight of CSKA's last nine home games in all competitions, backing No in the Both Teams To Score market has paid off, and if the hosts don't score early on, this could degenerate into a rather tepid affair.
Backing No in BTTS can be done at a price of [2.46], which I think is attractive.
Kevin Hatchard 2017-18 Europa League P/L