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Champions League Wenger back on familiar ground for Group A opener

Since then the London side have qualified for the Champions League in every full season of his management.

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Arsenal v Southampton - Premier League play Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley Livepic)

Arsenal's long-serving manager Arsene Wenger will feel at home when he takes his team to the Parc des Princes for Tuesday's Champions League opening Group A match against Paris St Germain.

A regular visitor to the French capital, the Strasbourg-born Wenger has often been linked in the past with an executive role at PSG when he finally leaves Arsenal, the club he joined in 1996.

Since then the London side have qualified for the Champions League in every full season of his management.

For the last 16 years in succession they have reached the second stage of the competition, only to suffer the frustration of defeat in the first knockout round for six seasons in a row.

Along with PSG, they must be regarded as favourites to qualify again from a group also including Basel and Bulgarian side Ludogorets.

Arsenal, who have a good record on recent visits to France, have recovered from taking a single point from their opening two Premier League games, winning the next two to reach sixth place in the table.

They needed a disputed late penalty, however, to beat Southampton 2-1 on Saturday.

PSG were also involved in late drama in their weekend game, although it went against them. Visitors St Etienne scored in the final minute on Friday to force a 1-1 draw.

That left the champions three points behind Monaco, who had beaten them 3-1 in the previous league fixture.

New coach Unai Emery, who arrived from Sevilla to replace Laurent Blanc in the close-season, lost important players to the Premier League in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and defender David Luiz but was pleased to keep influential midfielder Blaise Matuidi.

One of those recruited will be familiar to Arsenal. Hatem Ben Arfa spent four years in England with Newcastle United and Hull City.

"It's a squad that has won a lot and that has developed while winning," Emery told Uefa's official website (www.uefa.com).

"I've arrived at a club that want to keep on winning and to kick on to the next level. That's the challenge and it's a difficult one. The demands are very high."

So they are on Wenger, who made something of a rod for his own back by winning the League and FA Cup double twice within six years of arriving at Arsenal, then went from 2005 to 2014 without a major trophy.

He must do without injured club captain Per Mertesacker on Tuesday but French international striker Olivier Giroud is back in contention for a place.

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