PSG to fend off Arsenal for top spot in Champions League Group A
Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here's a preview for Group A. Who do you think will go through?
1. Paris Saint-Germain
3. FC Basel
4. Ludogorets Razgrad
Laurent Blanc was unseated as PSG manager last season despite winning Ligue 1 by 31 points. It all came down to losing 3-2 on aggregate to Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals, and now the pressure will be on new manager Unai Emery to go at least one better than that.
Emery's European pedigree is rich, having led Sevilla to three Europa League titles in a row. The additions of Grzegorz Krychowiak from his old club and Jese Rodriguez from Real Madrid represent a change in focus, as PSG get used to life without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who departed for Manchester United this summer.
The Champions League has caused Arsenal sincere pain over the years, yet they also boast the proud record of having made it past the group stage in every season since 2000-01. Finishing second in the Premier League in 2015-16 made them automatic qualifiers, though a lack of squad strengthening beyond the additions of midfielder Granit Xhaka and fledgling defender Rob Holding has many fans exasperated and concerned.
Wenger is surely nearing the end of his tenure in North London, though a closing date is not yet set on a term that pushes past 20 years next month. The closest the manager has come to lifting the trophy was losing 2-1 to Barcelona in the 2006 final in Paris.
Utterly dominant in Swiss football after seven consecutive title wins and a slippery proposition over the years for teams from bigger leagues having beaten Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United within the last five years. Last season, they failed to reach the Champions League and were beaten in the Europa League by eventual winners Sevilla.
Two seasons ago, they were a fairy tale story when centre-back Cosmin Moti saved two penalties in a shootout and scored his own to qualify them for the group stage after goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov had been sent off. They competed admirably with Real Madrid, Liverpool and Basel.
Moti and Stoyanov remain, while coach Georgi Dermendziev has returned. Seeing off Viktoria Plzen in the qualifying round made them the first Bulgarian team to advance to the group stage twice.
Game of the group:
PSG vs. Arsenal -- There have been times when it was suggested that Wenger might be tempted back to France, but London is his home now. He is a welcome face in Paris, though, and has made Arsenal hugely popular in France. Emery gets the chance to pit himself against the one who got away.
Is this finally the year that Arsenal fall at the hurdle of the group stage? Pulling Ludogorets and Basel might make that seem unlikely but both proved problematic for Liverpool when they faced them in the 2014-15 competition. Arsenal cannot afford to start like last season, when they lost their first three matches and needed to rescue themselves.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.