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Champions League: How far can Arsenal go on their return to Europe's top table?

Arsenal kick off their Champions League campaign on Wednesday and the Gunners are aiming to mark their return to Europe's top club competition in style.

Mikel Arteta's men are 2/5 to beat 6/1 visitors PSV in their Group B opener, which is their first Champions League fixture since 2016/17 when their run ended with a brutal 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the round of 16.

Having finished as runners-up to treble winners Manchester City in the 2022/23 Premier League, Arsenal are respected at 10/1 in the Champions League outright market.

Only holders City, German champions Bayern and 14-time winners Real Madrid are shorter than the Gunners in the betting and so how will the north Londoners fare back at Europe's top table?

WhatFurthest Progressing Premier League Team in Champions League
WhereFinal is at Wembley Stadium, London
WhenTuesday 19th September 2023 - Saturday 1st June 2024
How to watchTNT Sports
OddsManchester City 4/9, Arsenal 3/1, Manchester United 8/1, Newcastle 14/1

Gunners can take confidence from title challenge

Champions League football was taken for granted during Arsene Wenger's long reign as Arsenal manager, but the closest the Frenchman came to landing the trophy was in 2006.

The Gunners had goalkeeper Jens Lehman sent off inside the first 20 minutes of the final against Barcelona but took the lead through Sol Campbell before conceding two late goals to go down 2-1 in Paris.

Since their last Champions League campaign in 2016/17, they have had five seasons in the Europa League, losing in the semi-finals twice and suffering a 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in the 2018/19 final.

Arsenal have made spectacular progress since the start of last season, when they were rated 50/1 to win the Premier League. 

They topped the table for 248 days before being overhauled by Pep Guardiola's dominant Manchester City and they have made a strong start to 2023/24, taking 13 points from their first five games.

Arteta's men have shown their resilience in this term's Premier League, grinding out 1-0 away wins over Crystal Palace and Everton and scoring in the 96th and 101st minutes of their 3-1 home victory against Manchester United.

They finished nine points clear of the third-placed Red Devils last season and are expected to take that form into the Champions League. 

City are 4/9 to be the Furthest Progressing Premier League team with Arsenal 3/1, Manchester United 8/1 and Newcastle, playing in the competition for the first time in 20 years, 14/1

Group B rivals may be outclassed by Arteta's men

Arsenal reached the knockout stage in each of their last 14 Champions League seasons, losing in the last 16 nine times, and they are 9/2 to fail to qualify from Group B in which they face PSV, Sevilla and Lens.

PSV thumped Rangers 7-3 on aggregate in the playoff round but there are doubts over their defence, while Lens sold star striker Lois Openda to RB Leipzig after finishing just a point behind Ligue 1 champions Paris St-Germain last season.

Sevilla won a record-extending seventh Europa League crown in 2022/23 but finished only 12th in La Liga and have lost three of their first four league games this season.

Arsenal should be a cut above their group-stage opponents – they are 1/2 to win the section with Sevilla 9/2 – and they cannot be drawn against another English club in the last 16.

That is a major boost for the Gunners as avoiding favourites Manchester City for as long as possible could be the key to a successful Champions League run.

Arsenal gave City a scare in the title race last season but they were outclassed in their head-to-head battles, losing 3-1 and 4-1 in the league and 1-0 in the FA Cup fourth round.

Rice influence should help Arsenal scale new heights

Arsenal's summer signing Declan Rice captained West Ham to Europa Conference League glory last season and the England international should relish his first experience of the Champions League.

Rice has settled into the Gunners' midfield impressively while skipper Martin Odegaard has developed into one of Europe's best playmakers and Bukayo Saka is another world-class star.

City have won their last 12 league meetings with Arsenal but the Gunners should be confident of competing with the other top clubs in the Champions League.

They had a fine record in big Premier League games last season, completing doubles over London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea and taking four points off Newcastle and Liverpool.

However, defender Jurrien Timber, a summer signing from Ajax, suffered a serious knee injury on his Premier League debut against Nottingham Forest and Kai Havertz is yet to establish himself at the Emirates Stadium after his move from Chelsea.

Balancing the demands of Premier League and Champions League football will be a fresh challenge for Arteta and his players – they only made it as far as the Europa League last 16 – but they have the quality and squad depth to compete at the top level.

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