The Champions League anthem will reverberate around the Stade Bollaert-Delelis for the first time since 2002 as Lens and Arsenal go head-to-head on Tuesday.
Back to Europe’s most prestigious club competition after a 21-year absence, Lens gave Europa League specialists Sevilla a run for their money on matchday one.
Frank Haise’s men held the Spaniards to a 1-1 draw at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, which proved a turning point in their otherwise dismal 2023/24 campaign up until that point.
Last year’s Ligue 1 runners-up headed to Andalusia winless in all six competitive matches in the early stages of the new season (D2, L4) but came out stronger, as witnessed by a two-game winning streak in the aftermath.
Despite Lens’ resurgence in form, Arsenal won’t shy away from the task after putting a somewhat stomach-wrenching 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur behind them.
Mikel Arteta’s side followed up that stalemate, where they squandered two separate leads, with a 1-0 League Cup win over Brentford before putting Bournemouth to the sword last weekend.
Kai Havertz scored his first Premier League goal for Arsenal as the Gunners thumped Andoni Iraola’s underachievers 4-0 at the Vitality Stadium to reclaim their place in the top four.
After a string of impressive results, including a 4-0 demolition of PSV Eindhoven in their first Champions League outing since 2016/17, Arteta will expect his lads to take this trip in a buoyant mood.
Relinquishing the services of Seko Fofana and Lois Openda had threatened to turn Lens into an unworthy opposition earlier in 2023/24, but they’re seemingly back on track.
Back-to-back single-goal margin wins over Toulouse and Strasbourg should set Haise’s side up nicely for the club’s only seventh Champions League game.
Although it’s a relatively small sample, the Stade Bollaert-Delelis has stood firm, with Les Sang et Or only losing once in their six previous home games at Europe’s top table (W3, D2).
One of those two draws came against none other than Arsenal in the 1998/99 edition, where Lens held the Gunners winless in both group-stage meetings (W1, D1).
Of four Arsenal goalscorers against Bournemouth, only Ben White was born when the Gunners last played a Champions League game at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
Arteta’s youngsters maintained the club’s rich vein of form in the competition’s group stages with the eye-catching win against PSV, making it nine such fixtures without defeat (W7, D2).
The London high-flyers seem well placed to build on that scintillating home triumph, considering they have won all four competitive away matches in 2023/24 without conceding.
A quick peek into the history books suggests another victory is well on the cards, with Arsenal racking up three wins and a draw across their last four Champions League visits to French sides at this juncture.
Wuilker Farinez, Jimmy Cabot, and David Costa have been unavailable for selection since the start of the season, while Massadio Haidara hasn’t featured for Lens since their trip to Seville.
Arsenal summer signing Jurrien Timber is still on the sidelines alongside Thomas Partey.
They should have Gabriel Martinelli back from a short-term injury for this trip, but he’ll likely start on the bench.
Lens potential starting line-up:
(3-4-2-1): Brice Samba; Jonathan Gradit, Kevin Danso, Facundo Medina; Przemyslaw Frankowski, Salis Abdul Samed, Namplays Mendy, Deiver Machado; Angelo Fulgini, Florian Sotoca; Elye Wahi.
Arsenal potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): David Raya; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Odegaard, Declan Rice, Fabio Vieira; Leandro Trossard, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus.
We Say: Lens 0-1 Arsenal
Three of Arsenal’s four away wins this season have yielded a 1-0 scoreline, and we expect them to follow that pattern on Tuesday.
Despite Lens’ underwhelming start to the new campaign, they’re not leaking many goals, but scoring remains their problem.
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