We look ahead to Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action with our Arsenal vs Lens prediction and preview. Can Mikel Arteta’s side book their place in the last 16?
Arsenal vs Lens Stats: The Quick Hits
- Arsenal are heavily predicted to confirm their place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage with a win against Lens. The Opta supercomputer gives them a 72.5% chance of victory at Emirates Stadium.
- They have never beaten Lens in the Champions League, though, in three meetings.
- Lens’ only defeat in their last 12 games came on Matchday 4 at PSV.
It has been a solid Champions League group-stage campaign for Arsenal, winning three of their four games in Group B.
Their only hiccup came in a 2-1 defeat in Lens. On Wednesday, they have a chance for revenge, as well as the opportunity to cement their place in the knockout stage. Arsenal will advance if they avoid defeat, and will go through as group winners with a win, or if they avoid defeat and PSV also fail to win at Sevilla.
Lens have been a thorn in Arsenal’s side before, though, with the Gunners having never beaten them in a Champions League match in three attempts (D1 L2). It is the most times they have faced an opponent in the competition without winning.
Mikel Arteta has a good record in European games on home soil. Since losing his first European home game in charge of Arsenal in February 2020 (2-1 vs Olympiakos in the UEFA Europa League), Arteta has only had one defeat in his last 12 such games at Emirates Stadium (W8 D3) and has won five of the last six (D1).
Arsenal lead the Premier League, and have scored a significant number of goals in the league from set-pieces. In the Champions League, though, all nine of their goals so far have been from open play, with only Atlético Madrid and Bayern Munich scoring as often from open play in the first four matchdays (also nine).
Their passing game is working wonders on the continent, having made 50 passes that have broken the opposition’s defensive line in the Champions League this season. Only reigning European champions Manchester City (59) made more across the first four matchdays.
Bukayo Saka eventually unlocked a resolute Brentford defence with a cross for Kai Havertz’s winner on Saturday, and the England international has also assisted three goals in four appearances in the Champions League this season. No English player has ever assisted more than three goals in a single campaign in the competition for Arsenal.
The Gunners are likely to be put under pressure by Lens, though; quite literally. An impressive 73% of touches taken by Lens’ opponents in the Champions League this season have been while under pressure from the French side. Only Ligue 1 rivals Paris Saint-Germain (74%) had a higher percentage for the share of pressures applied to all touches by the opposition over the first four matchdays.
Stability in selection has helped see Lens recover from a very wobbly start to the campaign in which they lost four of their first five league games after finishing second in Ligue 1 last season. They sit in third place in Group B heading into Matchday 5, level on points with PSV in second. Four different outfield players have played every minute for Lens in the Champions League this season (Facundo Medina, Jonathan Gradit, Salis Abdul Samed and Kevin Danso) – the most outfielders to have not missed a single minute for any team in the competition in 2023-24.
Gradit won more aerial duels than any other defender through the first four matchdays (18). Among players to contest 20+ aerial duels, he also had the best success rate, winning 78% (18/23).
David Raya may come back in for the hosts after missing the win at his parent club Brentford, though Aaron Ramsdale will be hopeful of keeping his place in goal after leaving the Gtech Community Stadium with a clean sheet. Thomas Partey (thigh), Jurrien Timber (knee) and Emile Smith Rowe (knee) remain sidelined, while Fabio Vieira underwent surgery on a groin injury this week and will be out for a while.
Speaking of suspensions, Lens midfielder Morgan Guilavogui will miss the trip to north London after his red card against PSV on MD 4, but defender Danso is expected to be fit following a foot injury.
Arsenal vs Lens Head-to-Head
Franck Haise’s side beat Arsenal 2-1 in the reverse fixture on MD 2, with Adrien Thomasson and Elye Wahi turning things around after Gabriel Jesus’ opener for the visitors.
Lens are unbeaten in their three previous Champions League meetings with Arsenal, managing a 1-1 home draw and a 1-0 away win when they were paired together in 1998-99. Neither team qualified for the knockout stages that season.
They also met in the semi-finals of the since-rebranded UEFA Cup in 1999-00. Arsenal won 3-1 on aggregate, though suffered a penalty shoot-out loss against Galatasaray in the final. All five of Lens’ previous European matches against English teams have come against Arsenal (W2 D1 L2).
Arsenal went top of the Premier League after their 1-0 win at Brentford on Saturday and come into this having won their last three in all competitions, following back-to-back defeats at West Ham (EFL Cup) and Newcastle United (Premier League).
They are on nine points in Group B in the Champions League, four points ahead of PSV and Lens having beaten the Eredivisie side on MD 1 and taken three points against Sevilla both home and away.
As mentioned, Lens did not start the season well. Losing key players Seko Fofana and Loïs Openda in the summer seemed to affect them, but since defeat at Metz in September, they are unbeaten in eight Ligue 1 games (W5 D3). It was a positive return from the international break as they beat Clermont Foot 3-0 on Saturday.
Lens haven’t conceded more than once in any of their last 13 games in all competitions, but their win over Arsenal on MD 2 remains their only victory so far in the Champions League this season. They drew away to Sevilla and at home to PSV, before losing 1-0 in Eindhoven last time out, their only defeat in their last 12 games in all competitions.
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 on Wednesday, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.
Arsenal vs Lens Prediction
Arsenal are heavy favourites to get the job done at Emirates Stadium, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 72.5% likelihood of victory. Lens are rated at just 10.6% to complete a double over the English side, while a draw – which would still see Arsenal through – is at 16.9%.
In our overall Group B predictions, Arsenal have an almost certain 98.9% chance of going through, and a strong 93.8% chance of winning the group and being seeded in the draw for the last 16. The Gunners haven’t reached a Champions League final since 2006, but did so in 16.1% of the Opta supercomputer’s 10,000 simulations, winning the trophy 7.2% of the time.
Things are still far more up in the air in the group for Lens. They are handed a 33.2% chance of advancing from Group B, and not given much of a chance of making it beyond that. They reached the quarter-finals in just 8.5% of simulations, and the semi-finals only 2.1% of the time.
Arsenal vs Lens UCL Squads
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
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