After the debacle of the San Siro three weeks ago, Arsenal will on Tuesday attempt to do what no team in Champions League history has ever managed – overturn a four-goal deficit in a two-legged knock-out tie.
The 4-0 defeat to AC Milan, the heaviest loss the club has ever suffered in European competition, was a chastising experience for the Gunners and even manager Arsene Wenger conceded Arsenal are as good as eliminated, saying after the final whistle “there is maybe a 2-5% chance statistically, but realistically we are out”.
The odds compilers at bwin agree, making Milan 1/100 to qualify for the last eight, but following on from a great week in which Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool were both beaten, could the impossible dream become a reality for Arsenal?
A look at the history books may give Arsenal a crumb of encouragement. Milan have been on the receiving end of two of the most remarkable comebacks in Champions League history, most famously in the 2005 final when they somehow contrived to throw away a three-goal lead to a Liverpool team that consisted of Djimi Traore and Milan Baros to eventually lose on penalties.
More relevantly, the Rossoneri also surrendered a commanding lead in a two-legged tie in 2004, taking a 4-1 lead to Deportivo La Coruna in the quarter-finals only to lose 4-0 at Stadio Riazor to go out in humiliating fashion.
So there is previous for Milanese collapses, but I would suggest it is highly unlikely and I don’t think anyone is going to be tempted by the 20/1 that Arsenal progress, especially not on the evidence of the first leg, when the gulf in class was huge.
But what of the 90-minute match odds? If they are unable to qualify, Arsenal could at least salvage back some pride with a victory and bwin make that an 11/10 chance, with the draw at 27/10 and Milan a 21/10 shot to complete a convincing victory.
Wenger, no doubt buoyed by the vital wins Arsenal have enjoyed in the last week, was far more positive about his side’s chances in his press conference, confirming Robin van Persie will start and that his team ‘will have a go’ at Milan.
There have been over 3.5 goals in each of Arsenal’s three home games and Milan’s last two away games and both teams are in rich goalscoring form.
The truth is Arsenal can do little else and have nothing to lose, but these games are always difficult to judge.
Milan know scoring an early goal kills the tie stone dead, but how inclined they will be to go and get that goal is questionable.
Similarly, Arsenal know striking early will get the crowd going and give Milan something to think about, but will also know it is more important to still be in the tie at half-time than to score after 20 minutes.
As such, I would be wary of staking too much on a game that is essentially a dead rubber. I would also suggest there could be a few goals and the 31/20 on over 3.5 goals is worth a small play.
There have been over 3.5 goals in each of Arsenal’s three home games and Milan’s last two away games and both teams are in rich goalscoring form. Arsenal have scored seven in the last week and have failed to score only twice in their last 20 home games, whereas Milan have scored at least two goals in nine of their last ten away games.
Milan have scored 23 goals in that sequence and will fancy their chances of adding to that tally against an Arsenal side who have conceded seven goals in their last four home games.
An early goal for Arsenal could set this one alight and with Van Persie in such imperious form and Milan likely to strike at some point, the 31/20 on four or more goals looks decent value.
Recommended bet: Over 3.5 goals in the game @ 31/20
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