Arsenal must avoid defeat in order to keep themselves in realistic contention of qualifying for the next round in a crunch tie at the San Mames.
Arsenal travel to Basque country today ready to take on the Cantera of Athletic Bilbao in one of two big Group Six matches.
Arsenal’s NextGen group is fast becoming the closest out of all the collections in the 2012 edition of the Champions League for Europe’s best young talent and with Marseille and Olympiakos also facing off a clearer indication of who might escape this tight group may become apparent by the end of the day.
The game will be played in the San Mames stadium, Bilbao being one of a few teams in the competition who use same ground as their first team counterparts, and it will again prove a difficult away tie for the Young Gunners.
Currently Marseille top the group on seven points; two ahead of second placed Olympiakos and Arsenal in third on four. Bilbao are currently bottom with just three points but have played two games less than the other teams in the group.
Arsenal have so far been poor away from home losing both their previous travelling fixtures in France and Greece. Bilbao have played once at home when they thrashed Olympiakos 4-0 so Arsenal will be wary of the threat the side carry.
Arsenal must want to avoid their third defeat in the competition which would put them bottom of the Group with just one game remaining, effectively putting them out of the competition depending on other results. With an Olympiakos victory an Arsenal defeat would leave them way off the pace and on the brink of a disappointing exit from a competition in which they had high hopes.
Arsenal and Spanish youth international Hector Bellerin knows some of the talented youngsters at Bilbao through his international allegiance and spoke of the threat they will face:
“I know a few players from the Spanish national team at Bilbao, and they have a good team. They work really hard; they do 90 minutes of running so it will obviously be a very tough game for us… It will be a very big test for us.”
Here are some Tweets from the Arsenal lads ahead of their big NextGen fixture…
Nice to be in my country to play tomorrow against Athetico de Bilbao in the @nextgenseries . Really looking forward!— Hector Bellerin (@HectorBellerin) November 14, 2012
on the coach to the airport, soo looking forward to the match tomorro!— kristoffer olsson (@krisolsson) November 14, 2012
image: © birasuegi