Champions League: Arsenal ready to gamble and beat the house in Monaco
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his side to believe they can beat the odds and overturn a 3-1 deficit to defeat Monaco tonight and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The Gunners jetted out to the Principality tax haven, famous for its casinos and yacht-lined waterfront, needing to rewrite the history books to become the first team to qualify when heading into the away leg having to score more than one goal to avoid elimination.
Wenger accepts his men failed to produce the required performance in London last month when they squandered numerous chances before being hit on the counter - with a potentially fatal third goal coming in stoppage time moments after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had grabbed a lifeline.
Monaco are also a formidable defensive force at home, having not conceded at all during the group stages earlier this season, and extended their unbeaten record at the Stade Louis II Stadium to 16 games with a 3-0 win over Bastia on Friday night.
Arsenal, though, have never lost in France, and Wenger sees no reason why his side - the FA Cup semi-finalists in fine domestic form on the back of Saturday's 3-0 Barclays Premier League win over West Ham - cannot progress.
"Monaco is in a very strong position, but we have experience, the desire and belief we can do it," said Wenger, who confirmed centre-back Gabriel Paulista had travelled after recovery from a hamstring injury.
"We want to give everything to have the greatest performance on the pitch. If we did not believe we could do it, we would not be here.
"The statistics are against us. The result in the first leg is against us. We are conscious about that.
"But no matter how big the percentage (chance) is, we have to give absolutely everything to make the stats lie, that is our desire and belief that we can do it."
Wenger was manager at Monaco for seven years, guiding them to the French league title in 1988 and also the French Cup.
Despite the air of sentimentality, the 65-year-old - who moved to Japan after leaving Monaco and on to Highbury in September 1996 - remains focused on the task at hand.
"For me, it is very special moment. I was a young coach here at Monaco, and stayed here for seven years," Wenger said.
"However, the experience I have gained can help me to make the right decision here, so I am able to separate the emotion of coming back and the importance of the game."
"I am here for work and my job is for my club to win."
Asked if he thought it was worth having a bet on Arsenal when out on the town later, Wenger joked: "I stayed a lot on the football pitches and I don't think that people saw me in the casino (here)."
Champions League: Monaco v Arsenal, Stade Louis II, 7.45pm (UTV)