Slavia Prague v Arsenal: Czechs can bounce Gunners out

Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw by Slavia Prague in North London, and Kevin Hatchard suspects they are in for a rough ride in the Czech capital.

Gunners' fragility on show again

In what was indisputably their biggest game of the season so far, Arsenal flattered to deceive once again in last week's 1-1 draw with Slavia Prague. They took far too long to build up any momentum, but having finally taken the lead with a superb goal from Nicolas Pepe, the Gunners gave away a typically sloppy equaliser at the death. Across the 90 minutes, Arsenal managed just two shots on target.

The weekend's 3-0 win at rock-bottom Sheffield United may have repaired some damaged confidence, but it tells us little about where Arsenal are at as a team. It was their first competitive win since last month's North London derby, and there have been concerning displays since that victory against Tottenham. The performance in the 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool was atrocious, as was the opening half at West Ham. Coach Mikel Arteta continues to cut a frustrated figure on the touchline, and some of the players are believed to be annoyed that they are bearing the brunt of the criticism, while the coach consistently escapes censure.

Alexandre Lacazette is in good goalscoring form, having netted a brace at Bramall Lane, the fourth match he's scored in among his last eight appearances. He is likely to spearhead the attack, while it remains to be seen whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will recover from illness in time. Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are all carrying minor knocks. Influential Scottish defender Kieran Tierney will miss the match with injury.

Slavia still dreaming of British treble

Having dumped out Leicester City and Rangers, deservedly so on both occasions, Slavia Prague are on track to add another British victim to their list. While they were nowhere their best at The Emirates, Jindrich Trpisovsky's men stayed in the game, and found a way to grab what could be a precious away goal.

Midfielder Lukas Provod had a good game in North London, and Slavia have the option of fielding a front four of Abdallah Sima, Peter Olayinka, Jan Kuchta and Nicolae Stanciu. All four are potential matchwinners.

Slavia tuned up for this game with a 2-0 victory against Sparta in the Prague derby, a victory that leaves them 17 points clear at the top of the Czech top flight. Another league title is surely theirs, and this is a team that remains unbeaten in 2021. They lost 4-0 at Bayer Leverkusen in the final game of the group stage, and have gone 23 games unbeaten since.

Trpisovsky has no fresh injury concerns, but he has a decision to make on whether to start Jan Kuchta in attack, or leave him in reserve as he did at the Emirates.

Shaky Arsenal too short to take the win

Arsenal's price of 1.82 to win the game inside 90 minutes is distinctly unappealing. They have rarely put together convincing displays in this knockout phase, and they have plenty of players who are showing the effects of a long season. Slavia held the Gunners to a draw without playing particularly well last week, so if they click in the way we know they can, then they have a genuine chance of knocking Arteta's team out.

You could back Slavia to qualify at 2.53, but I'll simply lay Arsenal here at 1.82. That covers the 1-1 draw that might ultimately not go our way in extra time and a 2-2 or 3-3 draw that would take Arsenal through.

Stanciu worth a look again

I tipped Nicolae Stanciu to score last week at 6.0, but he didn't really get the chance to do much damage. The Romania magician is priced at 5.5 this time around, with the prolific Sima 4.5 and Kuchta 4.2 also good options.

On the Arsenal side of things, the in-form Lacazette can be backed at 2.25 to find the net.

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