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Antony Heath 5th Mar 2012 - 12:36

Gunners to fire but fall short

Arsenal v AC Milan

19:45 - live on Sky Sports 2


Arsenal (23/20) have their work cut out for them as they prepare to host Italian champions AC Milan (23/10, draw 12/5), they suffered their biggest ever European defeat in the San Siro as Milan won 4-0 and will have to produce an epic comeback to qualify for the quarter-finals.

The Gunners are 20/1 to qualify and that looks beyond them to me. They can cling to the hope that Milan have suffered the biggest first-leg turnaround in Champions League history - in 2003/2004 they beat Deportivo 4-1 at home only to then lost 4-0 away to exit the competition - but you wouldn't fancy them to beat their own unwanted record.

Arsenal we're totally dominated in the San Siro and the 4-0 scoreline didn't flatter Milan who could have easily found the net more often, they were also outplayed on Saturday against Liverpool despite getting a favourable 2-1 result. The second leg should be more even than the first as Arsenal will have more time on the ball at the Emirates to try to open us a solid Milan defence.

To stand any chance of making a competition of the tie they will need Robin van Persie (9/2 First/Last, 6/5 Anytime) to be as deadly with his finishing as he was at Anfield with 2 well taken goals. They will have to give him plenty of support up front with Arsenal needing to score at least 4 and so the like Theo Walcott (9/1 First/Last, 10/3 Anytime), Gervinho (7/1 First/Last, 2/1 Anytime) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (8/1 First/Last, 11/4 Anytime) will have plenty of opportunities coming their way and will need to taking all of them.

The Gunners have a solid home record in Europe and have lost just once in their last 42 European fixtures, a 3-1 loss to Manchester United, and so a win for them under the circumstances seems highly likely however the issue will be can they score enough?

AC Milan will head into this full of confidence following their impressive victory in the San Siro and are just 1/150 to make the next round. Milan hasn't done particularly well on their travels to England and their record stands at just won 1, drew 6 and lost 8. They don't have to win this which would lead to some teams downfall, however you would expect Milan to be professional enough to see the Job through.

The Rossoneri currently lead Serie A however this is the trophy that they regard highest and so anything other than a full strength side put out by Massimilano Allegri would be a surprise. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (6/1 First/Last, 7/4 Anytime) will, as always, be a huge danger and a good bet to add to his tally of five Champions League goals this season. Another player to keep an eye on would be the ex-Spurs man Kevin Prince Boateng (10/1 First/Last, 7/2 Anytime), who has been a revelation in Italy, and after opening the scoring in the first leg would revel in scoring at the Emirates too.

On a stats front I would say that over 2.5 @8/11 (under Evens) would be an excellent bet with Arsenal having to push forward and leaving themselves exposed. Both teams to score would also be fancied for the same reasons @8/13 (6/5 not to) but for the better price over 2.5 would be the preferred option. Over 3.5 @2/1 (under 4/11) and over 4.5 @5/1 (under 1/9) are both reasonable shouts.

On the whole I think it's likely that Arsenal win a high scoring clash but ultimately fail to progress, the correct scores of 3-1 Arsenal (16/1) and 3-2 Arsenal (25/1) are the ones that I would be most likely fancying along with a double result of Draw/Arsenal (4/1). Another good bet would be to go under 55 on the booking points as two sides that like to play football there won't be too many crunching tackles but maybe just a few 'cynical' fouls.


Best Bets:

Arsenal @ 23/20

Over 2.5 goals @ 8/11

Worth a punt:

Prince Boateng anytime @ 7/2

Arsenal 3-1 @ 16/1



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