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Monaco’s dogged defence no match for this Arsenal hitman

| 25.02.2015

The fallout from the World Cup in Brazil could not have been better contrasted by the impact felt by the two teams closest to Arsene Wenger’s heart – Arsenal and AS Monaco.

For the Principality club it was a case of damage control as the Ligue 1 side saw star man James Rodriguez prized away by Real Madrid with Radamel Falcao following him out the door a few months later.

The Gunners, meanwhile, inherited two World Cup winners in Per Mertesacker and Mezut Ozil yet it was the acquisition of another of the tournament’s stars that would be the major talking point.

Effectively cast out by Barcelona before things had even kicked off in Brazil, Alexis Sanchez’s three seasons in Catalan country had brought 47 goals in 141 games, including 39 in 88 La Liga appearances.

But that wasn’t enough for a Barca team led by the mighty Lionel Messi, who opted to sell him on for a hefty £35 million in July of 2014.

How they must rue that decision now because, while Barcelona lumber on – they lost 1-0 at home to Malaga over the weekend – Sanchez has gone from strength to strength.

A tally of 18 goals in 32 appearances so far is impressive enough and should give the Chilean plenty of confidence going into a home encounter with AS Monaco.

The losses of Rodriguez and Falcao saw manager Leonardo Jardim focus on building a team that was defensively tough and they certainly showed that in the group phase.

Monaco finished top of their group with 11 points yet managed to score just four goals in six games.

In truth, it was their endeavours at the other end of the pitch that took the most acclaim with the Principality club keeping clean sheets in five of their six group stage fixtures, conceding just once in a new Champions League record.

Not that that will matter to Sanchez – the Chilean has scored in each of Arsenal’s previous four home encounters in this competition and there is little to suggest he will not continue that run.

The 26-year-old has already been on target in three home fixtures for the Gunners in 2015 and will fancy his chances of opening the scoring against a Monaco side that recently went down 1-0 away from home to lowly Guingamp.

With Ladbrokes boosting the price on Sanchez scoring first from 4/1 to 5/1, this could be your chance to make the most of a memorable night in Europe for Arsenal and a contender for the best player in the Premier League.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.