We look ahead to Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League action in northern France with our Lens vs Arsenal prediction and preview. Can Mikel Arteta’s Gunners make it two wins from two Group B fixtures?
Lens vs Arsenal: The Quick Hits
- The Opta supercomputer is backing Arsenal to continue their positive return to the UEFA Champions League, giving them a 59% chance of victory at Lens.
- Arsenal played their first-ever Champions League game away at Lens, 25 years and 17 days before Tuesday’s match. Marc Overmars and Tony Vairelles scored in a 1-1 draw.
- Gabriel Jesus has been involved in 15 goals in his last 15 Champions League starts, scoring 12 and assisting three. He has netted in his last three group stage matches.
Arsenal fans endured six difficult years without UEFA Champions League football, but their Matchday 1 performance was well worth the wait as they dismantled PSV Eindhoven in a 4-0 win at the Emirates Stadium. Next up, the Gunners return to the scene of their first-ever game in Europe’s premier club competition as they face Lens at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
On that occasion in September 1998, Arsène Wenger’s team settled for a 1-1 draw in northern France as Marc Overmars’ opener was cancelled out by Tony Vairelles’ last-minute equaliser. When Arsenal return to Lens 25 years and 17 days on from that match, they will do so as heavy favourites after making a blistering start to their first Champions League campaign under Mikel Arteta.
Eredivisie giants PSV had no answer a fortnight ago as Arsenal ran riot, with Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Jesus and Martin Ødegaard all scoring in their first Champions League game for the club. Only two players have previously scored on their first two Champions League outings for the Gunners – Marouane Chamakh in 2010 (first three) and Lukas Podolski in 2012.
Jesus in particular is looking to maintain a fine run in this competition, having been involved in 15 goals in his last 15 Champions League starts for Arsenal and former club Manchester City, scoring 12 and assisting three. He’s also netted in his last three Champions League group stage games.
Arsenal warmed up for Tuesday’s game by maintaining their unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a 4-0 win at Bournemouth. Kai Havertz and Ben White joined Saka and Ødegaard on the scoresheet. Despite that rout, Arsenal have still scored just five open-play goals across their seven Premier League games, a tally bettered by 10 teams.
However, something about continental competition seems to bring the best out of Arsenal’s frontline. They scored four times from 2.3 expected goals (xG) against PSV, with their positive differential of 1.7 only bettered by Barcelona (five goals from 2.9 xG against Royal Antwerp) on MD 1.
Arsenal’s injury problems are starting to ease, though Gabriel Martinelli has not featured since suffering a hamstring injury in their win at Everton. His fitness issues may give Eddie Nketiah another chance to impress, but Thomas Partey and long-term absentee Jurriën Timber are still out.
Lens, meanwhile, will approach the game in an optimistic mood after enjoying something of an upturn in recent weeks. Having finished second in Ligue 1 last season, they started 2023-24 with one point from five games – their worst return for 62 seasons in the top flight. However, Franck Haise’s team have since clinched back-to-back victories in league matches, beating Strasbourg 1-0 on Friday thanks to Elye Wahi’s goal.
Prior to those wins, Lens began their first Champions League campaign since 2002-03 with a 1-1 draw at Sevilla. They made a somewhat nervy start and saw four players – Angelo Fulgini, Brice Samba, Facundo Medina and Florian Sotoca – booked in the first half, the most cautions received by a team in the first 45 minutes of a Champions League game since November 2016 (Dynamo Kyiv, four against Benfica).
However, Lens rediscovered their composure to leave southern Spain with a valuable point as Fulgini’s stunning free-kick cancelled out Lucas Ocampos’ early header.
Wahi – who scored 19 goals for Montpellier in Ligue 1 last term and was our player to watch in Group B – impressed against the UEFA Europa League holders, with no player bettering his three shots attempted following a carry across MD 1. In Lens team news, Wahi will lead the line on Tuesday, while David Costa could return after sustaining a shoulder injury.
Lens vs Arsenal Head-to-Head
Lens are unbeaten in their two previous Champions League meetings with Arsenal, managing a 1-1 home draw and a 1-0 away win when they were paired together in Group E in 1998-99. Neither team qualified for the knockout stages that season.
The teams have met more recently than that, however, in the semi-finals of the since-rebranded UEFA Cup in 1999-00. Arsenal claimed a 3-1 aggregate triumph on that occasion, though they subsequently suffered penalty shoot-out heartache against Galatasaray in the final.
More generally, Arsenal have a fine record in France, only losing one of their 14 previous away games against French teams (eight wins, five draws). That lone defeat came at Rennes (3-1) in the Europa League in March 2019.
The Gunners are unbeaten in eight such visits in the Champions League (six wins, two draws), though they lost the 2006 final in Paris, against Barcelona at the Stade de France.
Arsenal have won their last four away games, beating Bournemouth, Everton and Crystal Palace in the Premier League and overcoming Brentford in the League Cup, keeping clean sheets in all of those. Their only dropped points in league action this term have come in home draws with Fulham and Tottenham.
In the Champions League, meanwhile, the Gunners are unbeaten in their last nine UCL group stage fixtures, winning seven and drawing two.
Only between November 2003 and September 2006, when they avoided defeat in 17 successive group games, have they enjoyed a longer unbeaten run at this stage.
Lens, however, will be hopeful of impressing in front of their own fans. Across their two previous Champions League campaigns in 1998-99 and 2002-03, they only lost one of their six home matches (three wins, two draws).
They also boast a fantastic scoring run in home games on the continental stage, having netted at least once in each of their last 33 European games on their own turf (78 goals in total). Throughout the 21st century, no team has played as many as their 23 home games in UEFA competitions without ever failing to score.
Opta Power Rankings
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.
Ahead of kick-off in this UCL game, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides:
Lens vs Arsenal Prediction
Despite Lens’ strong record in northern France, the Opta supercomputer fancies Arsenal to make it six points from two games on Tuesday.
Across 10,000 match simulations conducted ahead of kick-off, the Gunners were victorious in 59% of scenarios. Lens are assigned a 19% chance of victory, with the likelihood of a draw standing at 22%.
In the supercomputer’s overall Champions League predictions, Arsenal top Group B in 84.53% of simulations. Only Bayern Munich in Group A (85.57%) are seen as more likely group winners.
Lens are given a 34.48% chance of reaching the last 16, making them more fancied than Sevilla (21.46%) but less favoured than PSV (47.85%).
Lens vs Arsenal UCL Squads
Lens: Jean-Louis Leca, Brice Samba, Roman Karolewicz, Yannick Pandor, Ruben Aguilar, Deiver Machado, Kevin Danso, Facundo Medina, Faitout Maouassa, Massadio Haïdara, Jonathan Gradit, Abdukodir Khusanov, Przemysław Frankowski, Ismaëlo Ganiou, Kenny M’Bala, Wesley Gbalou Zahibo, Souleymane Sagnan, Oscar Lenne, Ryan George, Kaïs Benabdelouahed, Mattéo Escouflaire, Marceau Apperry, Salis Abdul Samed, David Costa, Andy Diouf, Neil El Aynaoui, Nampalys Mendy, Adrien Thomasson, Fode Sylla, Anthony Bermot, Tom Pouilly, Mathéssendé Baud-Banaga, Florian Dewaele, Grégoire Herbin, Florian Sotoca, Elye Wahi, Angelo Fulgini, Wesley Said, Morgan Guilavogui, Ayanda Sishuba, Nolan Bonté, Sean Tormin.
Head Coach: Franck Haise
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsdale, David Raya, James Hillson, William Saliba, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Jakub Kiwior, Cédric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Lino Sousa, Thomas Partey, Martin Ødegaard, Leandro Trossard, Jorginho, Fábio Vieira, Mohamed Elneny, Kai Havertz, Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson.
Head Coach: Mikel Arteta