Arsenal are cruising through the Europa League group stage, and Kevin Hatchard expects that to continue against injury-hit Guimaraes.
Gunners looking to salve the same old wounds
Good old Punxsutawney Phil in Groundhog Day had nothing on Arsenal. Monday's limp 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United has been played out in front of Gunners fans time and time and time again.
While no-one can doubt that Unai Emery is a talented coach who has won plenty of trophies at domestic and continental level, it seems remarkable how little he has been able to move the needle in terms of the club's culture. This group of players continues to make defensive errors, and continues to come up short away from the comfy glow of the Emirates.
Emery's progress to the Europa League final last term bought him some credit, and he may need to repeat that this season, with many Arsenal fans (including a good portion of the Wenger loyalists) angered by the current failings. A strong start to the group stage has caught the eye - Arsenal won 3-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt and smashed Standard Liege 4-0. Youngsters like Bukayo Saka have outshone the more established performers, and at least Emery can show he is giving youth a chance.
Emery is once again likely to field a "weakened" side, with an important and potentially difficult Premier League game against Crystal Palace on the horizon. After recovering from injury, full-backs Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin could start, as could Alex Lacazette in attack.
Injuries could spoil Vitoria's big night
Vitoria Guimaraes caught the eye last season, finishing fifth in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Sometimes the problem with having success is that it can invite admiring glances and tempting offers. Coach Luis Castro was spirited away to Shakhtar Donetsk, and the team has struggled to make an impact at this level so far.
Vitoria have lost both of their UEL group games this term without scoring a goal. They lost 2-0 at Standard Liege, and then went down 1-0 at home against Eintracht Frankfurt. Their league form has been decent, with a record of three wins, three draws and three defeats taking them into the top four.
Guimaraes' big problem going into this clash is that they have so many players missing because of injury. They could be without nine senior players as they head to north London, and those issues contributed to the weekend's embarrassing cup defeat at lower-league side Sintra.
Arsenal should win with room to spare
Arsenal have looked very good so far in this competition, and Emery has found the right blend when it comes to team selection. This should in theory be his side's most straightforward challenge in the group phase, and I'm expecting a comfortable victory for the hosts.
I'll happily back Arsenal -1.5 on the Asian Handicap here at 1.82, which means if they win by two goals or more, you win.
Lacazette to make his mark
If he is given a start, this could be the perfect opportunity for Alexandre Lacazette to play his way into form. He has only made four appearances this term, largely because of fitness, and yet he has scored in both appearances at the Emirates. Keep an eye on the team news, but if he starts, back the Frenchman to score at any time at 1.86.