Arsenal vs. Monaco UCL Soccer Pick: Can the French Club Spring a Surprise on the Gunners at the Emirates?

Nikki Adams

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 2:28 PM GMT

Arsenal take on Monaco in Wednesday's slate of R16 Champions League clashes, a game that is firmly cornered with the hosts. Is it going to be as straightforward as bookies suggest.

Arsenal Hot Faves To Win First Leg
For the first time in three years, Arsenal avoids a potential death trap in the R16. Two seasons of losing to Bayern Munich at this first hurdle in the knockout stages must have rankled with the Gunners, more so than any other defeat. Last season, they drew Bayern Munich in the first round of the knockouts, only to lose 3-1 to the Bundesliga powerhouse. The year prior, they enjoyed a more competitive tie and actually finished level 3-3 on aggregate, only to fail to advance on the away goals rule and instead watch Bayern traipse all the way to the coveted title.

Drawing Monaco this time around could be the omen Arsene Wenger has been looking for all these years. In Monaco, he faces his former club (1987-1994) with which he won a Ligue 1 title (1988) and the Coupe de France (1991). It's the first "reunion," if you will between Arsenal and Monaco in a competitive match. It remains to be seen whether it'll be a happy reunion of sorts for the long time Arsenal manager. If the soccer odds were any indication, it appears it just might be.

Odds makers have rolled out a rather lopsided soccer betting line with the Gunners as the -200 faves to win outright at the Emirates at the expense of Monaco, who are priced at staggering +700 soccer odds for a first leg win. After Arsenal finished second in Group D, behind Borussia Dortmund, and thereby failed to clinch a seed for the knockout stages, which meant they'd have the disadvantage of starting the tie on home turf and ending it on the road (the underlining notion is that winning on the road is more difficult than winning at home), there was pause for concern. This could have worked against Arsenal not unlike the past two seasons when a second-place finish earned them a date with Bayern Munich in the R16. instead, in a rather fortuitous twist, they drew one of the competitions long shots Monaco.

To get a sense of where Monaco falls in the field of competition, one need look at the futures odds board for Champions League. Where the Ligue 1 hopefuls are trading at whopping +10000 to win outright, just the third longest after Basel (+30000) and the tandem of Schalke and Shakhtar Donetsk (both at +40000). Arsenal, by contrast, are in the mix at the top of the pile. Not exactly of the Bayern-Real-Barcelona ilk, who head up the board, but nonetheless noticeable contenders, competitively priced at +1800.

 

Arsenal Are Back Inside Premier League Top 4
That Arsenal are back inside the Top 4 after a highly entertaining and dramatic weekend of Premier League betting, which featured many title implications and dramatic Shakespearean plot twists, provides a promising backdrop to their R16 Champions League date with Monaco.

After a painful loss to the Spurs in week 24 EPL betting, the Gunners were desperate for a lift. A late goal saw the Spurs snatch the victory and all three points and as the game ended Arsenal was on the outside of the coveted Top 4, looking in. Fortunately, a date with basement dwelling Leicester City afforded a nice opportunity to bounce back with a 2-1 win. A win they built upon this weekend with another, a hard fought 2-1 win over Crystal Palace. Elsewhere, with Man United dropping their game at Swansea City 2-1 and Southampton succumbing 2-0 to Liverpool at St. Mary's Park, Arsenal leapfrogged two spots up the table, into third with a 14-6-6 mark and 48 points.

 

Arsenal Should Win First Leg Over Monaco
It may be surprising to some soccer bettors that Monaco are seeded in the knockout stages of Champions League, but it really shouldn't be. They benefited from one of the softest groups in the competition that included Bayer Leverkusen, FC Zenit and SL Benfica. Put into the context of the group, it's no surprise they courier little favour in soccer betting markets for the first leg of their R16 tie.

This isn't a sign of disrespect. The reality is this  isn't the same star-studded cast that showed off its wares last season with Falcao and Rodriguez on the Monaco bench. Monaco sold off both stars in the summer transfer window, the intention was to ease the load on their coffers. The upshot: it also lessened their threat-factor in market estimation.

 

Soccer Betting Verdict: 
If Arsene Wenger and his lads were looking for an opportunity to put forward a concentrated campaign in Europe's top-flight club competition, it doesn't get any better than starting on a matchup with a perceived competition lightweight. Arsenal are correctly matched as the favourites at -200 to win outright and they really should come through for those that back them on their soccer picks. If they don't, colour the world shocked.

Soccer Picks: Arsenal -200 at Bodog

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