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Arsenal Finally Lucky in Champions League Knockout Draw

Arsenal

The Gunners dodged a big bullet on Monday as they were drawn against Ligue 1 club Monaco in the upcoming knockout round of the Champions League. Although Monaco finished top of group C in the European competition, Arsenal fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when the draw was announced in Nyon, Switzerland.

In drawing Monaco, Arsenal avoided tough round of 16 matchups with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid. Despite Monaco’s success in the group stage, many fans and pundits saw the Ligue 1 team as Arsenal’s weakest possible opposition for the knockout phase.

Arsenal has had their fair share of bad luck with their round of 16 clashes over the last four season. The Gunners have faced off against Bayern Munich (twice), AC Milan, and Barcelona since the 2010-11 season. Two out of these four opponents, Bayern in 2013 and Barcelona in 2011, went on to win the Champions League final. The north London club eventually dropped out of the round of 16 in each of the last four seasons.

Much was talked about when Arsenal failed to win group D, mostly because of the 3-3 draw against Anderlecht (a game in which the Gunners were leading 3-0), and went into the knockout phase as group stage runners-up. However, while Arsenal is to play Monaco, group D winners Borussia Dortmund face stiffer competition in the round of 16 when they face-off against Italian giants Juventus.

Monaco, however, is no slouch of a team. Last season’s Ligue 1 runners-up have won five out of their last six matches (including four consecutive victories), keeping clean sheets in all five wins. Although Monaco was not part of an overly difficult group in the Champions League (a group that consisted of Bayer Leverkusen, Benfica, Zenit Saint Petersburg, and the Ligue 1 team), they came out as winners by only allowing one goal in the six matches.

Nevertheless, Arsenal will feel confident heading into the round of 16 matchups with Monaco. The Gunners have now been a part of the knockout phase for an astounding 15 consecutive seasons. While they have not reached the quarterfinals since the 2009-10 season, Arsenal are favorites to advance this season.

The north London club will also get a boost in the injury department, as injured stars Mikel Arteta, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott are all set to return from the sideline before the February face off against Monaco.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will get to play his former club when the two sides meet on February 25th at the Emirates in London. Wenger managed Monaco from 1987-1994, and guided them to the Ligue 1 title in 1988.

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