Arsenal-Anderlecht Preview: Last-16 place beckons for Gunners

Arsene Wenger’s men know a victory – combined with a Borussia Dortmund draw or win over Galatasaray – will see them qualify with two games to spare

Arsenal can book a place in the Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday when they host Anderlecht at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger’s side have won their first two home fixtures in the competition this season and victory in the fourth match of Group D would see them reach the last 16 with two games to spare, provided Borussia Dortmund avoid defeat to Galatasaray.

Two goals in three minutes late on in the reverse fixture in Belgium two weeks ago saw Arsenal snatch all three points and deny Anderlecht a first win in the group.

Theo Walcott is likely to feature for Arsenal after making a late cameo appearance in the 3-0 triumph over Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday.

Wenger was delighted to welcome the England international back after he sustained a cruciate knee ligament in January, but the Gunners will still be without Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere.

While that dents their attacking threat, Chile international Alexis Sanchez reached double figures for the season last weekend and Danny Welbeck will look to build on the hat-trick he scored in Arsenal’s last Champions League home game against Galatasaray.

The Gunners’ goalkeeping problem that saw Damian Martinez play in Brussels has also eased with the return from suspension of Wojciech Szczesny, the Pole coming straight back in to replace his 22-year-old understudy.

Anderlecht sit top of the Pro League in Belgium coming into Tuesday’s game, but have only won one of their last seven matches in all competitions.

Besnik Hasi’s side needed a stoppage-time equaliser from Zoro Cyriac to earn a 1-1 draw with Lokeren on Saturday, a third league game without a win at home for Anderlecht, but the match was overshadowed by an injury to Steven Defour.

The Belgium international suffered a calf injury late in the first half and Hasi does not expect to have the 26-year-old available for his side’s trip to London.

“Steven suffered too much burden on his calf and he immediately decided to come off,” Hasi told reporters.

“I will provisionally assume that he will definitely be out for two weeks, but we will be able to estimate the severity of the injury when the doctors examine his calf. 

“Perhaps Steven has a sprain or tear, the Champions League match on Tuesday against Arsenal is definitely too soon.”

Matias Suarez will also be missing for the visitors with a knee injury, adding further troubles for a side who have never won in England.

Anderlecht’s cause is also hampered by the fact that the team have not won on the road in the Champions League group stage since December 2005, a 1-0 victory at Real Betis.

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