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Rupert Wyman 3rd Nov 2009 - 15:35

Arsenal to fly into the knockout phase at the Emirates

Arsenal can qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League if they beat Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar at the Emirates on Wednesday night.

The leaders in Group H are unsurprisingly the short 1/6 favourites to make it three wins out of four in this season's Champions League. The Gunners have been awesome this season, especially at home and they look nailed on to gain revenge on AZ Alkmaar for their injury time equaliser in the reverse fixture on matchday three.

Arsenal had dominated the match and Arsene Wenger was left frustrated at conceding the goal nevertheless the Gunners are in an incredibly strong position in their group and they come into the match full of confidence after they defeated their north London rivals Tottenham 3-0 on Saturday.

The way which Arsenal can tear sides apart makes them look an attractive bet on the handicap. They give a one-goal start to the Dutch side but are a big looking 8/13 to defy the handicap.

Another cracking bet is the over 2 goals selection in the total match goals betting at 4/9. Only once this season in Champions League and Premier League matches at the Emirates has there not been more than two goals.

AZ Alkmaar's four previous matches in England have all ended in defeat and they have conceded 12 goals in the process of those losses.

Robin van Persie is a man in form at the moment scoring eight goals in his last nine matches. The Dutch striker is 11/4 to open the scoring as he did against Spurs and 8/13 to score anytime. A better bet though could be captain fantastic Cesc Fabregas to exert his influence on the game yet again by finding the back of the net.

The Spanish sensation is 6/4 to grab his seventh goal of this campaign and breach the AZ backline again after he was Arsenal's goalscorer in the Netherlands.

It is hard to say much positive about AZ's chances (16/1) as Arsenal are so good at the moment playing their fluid attacking football and the 4-3-3 system that Wenger has implemented this term is working a treat. In addition the Dutch champions are struggling in the Eredivisie as they sit in seventh with six wins and six losses to their name.

The match stats from the reverse fixture show a telling story of the game as the Dutch side only had a solitary shot on target while the Gunners managed eight to underline their dominance.

AZ's lack of attacking threat on matchday three leads me to believe that Arsenal can keep a clean sheet at 2/5 despite their often lapses of concentration at the back.

Arsenal's defence will be without French left back Gael Clichy who has a back injury but he has an able deputy in the form of England U21 international Kieran Gibbs.

Further up the field Nicklas Bendtner is also missing and his place will likely go to either Emmanuel Eboue, Eduardo or Tomas Rosicky.

This emphasises the strength in depth that Wenger has at the Emirates. People often say his squad lacks experience but as they so often prove in the Carling Cup what the Frenchman's squad lacks in experience it more than makes up for it in talent.

Another free scoring Arsenal victory can be expected as the Gunners fans will sit back in their comfy Emirates seats and admire the beautiful football before their eyes while at the same time their side goes marching on to the knockout phase.



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