Few would have imagined after Arsenal's 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the round of 16 of the 2016-17 Champions League that it would be more than six years before the Gunners returned to the European big time. There have been near misses in the years since but Mikel Arteta's side are now back where they feel like they belong. On their return, they will be facing 1988 European champions PSV Eindhoven, a side who have begun the season in rich form.
Peter Bosz's side top the Eredivisie and have already sent one British opponent crashing out of the tournament, winning 5-1 in the second leg against Rangers to book their place in the competition proper. PSV also beat Arsenal at home in the group stages of last season's Europa League, repeating that in London would be quite the coup.
- Date: Wednesday, September 20 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
- Location: Emirates Stadium -- London
- Watch: Paramount+
- Odds: Arsenal -275; Draw +400; PSV +650
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Arsenal: For the Gunners and their manager Arteta, this has been a long time coming, last season's Champions League qualification perhaps not as cherished at the time as it might have been given that it was secured so early in a campaign that for a while looked like it might end in a Premier League title. The buzz is building around the club now though with Gabriel Jesus joking earlier in the week that some of his teammates have taken to playing the competition's anthem in the gym over recent days.
That delight is shared by Arteta, who dubbed himself "proud and excited" to be leading the club out in Europe's top competition. "It's been a long time for the club since we have been in the competition and obviously it's the first time for me as a manager, so I'm really looking forward to it," he added.
PSV: The Boeren could hardly arrive in London in better form, each of their last three games won by four-goal margins with USMNT striker Ricardo Pepi netting for the first time in the Eredivisie for his new club as NEC were blitzed at the Phillips Stadion after the international break.
A strong start to the season is not the only similarity PSV share with their hosts in north London, Bosz's side have also endured what for them has been an unimaginably long absence from the Champions League, five years in their case. "I notice around me that everyone is happy that we are back at this level," said the head coach. "PSV belong there, five years of absence is a long time. The most important thing is that we show courage. We are playing against a very good opponent, but we have to dare and want to play football ourselves."
Nerves could well play their part on Arsenal's return to the Champions League but if they show their quality this should be a solid win for the Gunners. PICK: Arsenal 2, PSV 0