Arsenal need a miracle if they are going to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals tonight. Having lost 3-1 to Monaco at the Emirates, the Gunners must somehow find three goals against the Ligue 1 dark horses.
They think they can do it. Arsenal have been in fine form since that disastrous night, winning four games in a row including an impressive victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup. There is also a misguided belief that they are going to one of the least intimidating places in Europe.
If Arsenal can beat the best team in Europe 2-0 in an 71,000-seater stadium as they did against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena in 2013, then surely the 18,000 capacity crowd at Stade Louis II will be easygoing. Not so much.
An unlikely fortress
The tiny stadium may not look intimidating, but it has certainly become something of a fortress in the Champions League this season. Monaco's stubborn defence did not concede at home in the group stages and let in just one in three away games. That form translates to the domestic game as well; only twice have their forces been breached in the last 13 Ligue 1 games.
For Arsenal to waltz into Monte Carlo, thinking they will leave with the jackpot, is foolish. This really is mission impossible. The last time Monaco conceded three goals at home was in 2011 when they were a wholly different outfit in France's second division.
The team have transformed into a solid unit since then manager Leonardo Jardim prioritising defence first and attack second. They used it to such devastating effect against Arsenal, scoring their second and third goals on the counterattack.
Reasons for optimism
Arsenal, of course, must go with as much belief as possible. There are reasons for optimism as well. If Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil both turn up and Olivier Giroud can grab an early goal, maybe Monaco will panic and Arsenal can take apart a crumbling unit.
Recent experiences also hint at the possibility of an upset. The 3-0 victory over AC Milan in 2011 almost saw them claw back from a disastrous 4-0 first-leg loss. They shocked European football after beating Bayern Munich 2-0 at home, crashing out on away goals.
But Monaco don't crumble; they only get stronger when the ball goes in the back of their own net. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the salvaging goal for Arsenal in the first leg, every Monaco player looked incredibly frustrated, but they picked themselves up and took the opportunity to re-establish a two-goal lead within minutes.
Patience is key
They are the most patient side in this season's competition and have found themselves in the perfect position going into the second leg. Arsenal will fly forward in search of goals from the off, pushing high up the pitch, creating chances but ultimately playing into Monaco's hands.
A common saying in Monte Carlo is 'the house always wins'. Arsenal are walking into a casino with the dice heavily weighted against them. There is always the chance that Joe Bloggs will walk away with the jackpot, but the odds are stacked up as high as they come.
They have nothing to lose and will put everything on the table, but a trending hashtag won't be enough to spark a miracle in Monaco.
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