Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Monday December 17 2007
Arsenal will take a very much changed squad to Ewood Park on Tuesday when they face Blackburn in the Carling Cup Quater Final.
Arsenal may have suffered something of a dip in for in recent weeks but the Gunners showed what they are capable of when they out played and out fought Chelsea to grab a 1-0 win on Sunday.
Blackburn, however, have won only one of their last 6 games (3-1 V Newcastle) and were on the wrong end of a 5-3 thriller at the weekend as Wigan looked to climb out of the relegation zone.
A Roque Santa Cruz hat trick was not enough to get anything from the game. A superb performance from Marcus Bent helped secure Wigan the spoils. How long before Spurs claim that their Lasange was spiked and Charlton sold them the 'Wrong Bent'?
Anyway, back to all things Arsenal.
Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott, Eduardo Da Silva and the impressive Nicklas Bendtner will all be fighting for a start up front.
With Wenger likely to deploy a 4-5-1, it might be too much to ask of Van Persie to start so soon after coming back from injury, and with Theo Walcott and Eduardo both slight in build, Bendtner would be the obvious choice to start up front.
There are question marks over Diarra's commitment to Arsenal after he was reported to have told L'equipe that he wants to leave Arsenal. If it turned out to be untrue, it wouldn't be the first time the French sports publication had mis-quoted a player.
His reported comments could see him ommited from Arsene Wenger's squad for the trip to Blackburn. Wenger will not want to do anything to compromise the harmony in the dressing room.
If Diarra doesn't travel then two of Denilson, Diaby and Gilberto will almost certainly occupy the middle of the park for Arsenal, although Flamini has already declared his egarness to play.
There will be no such rotation from Mark Hughes. He will field the strongest team at his disposal as Blackburn look to qualify for Europe.
Rover's gaffer Hughes is under no illusions as to the task his team face when they play Arsenal. He told Blackburn's official website: 'This is a major cup quarter-final with plenty at stake and both teams keen to progress. Whatever team we face will be an outstanding one crammed with top players.
'Obviously as they are playing Sunday-Tuesday, I would imagine it will be a completely different team that the one which faced Chelsea on Sunday, but obviously they have a very strong bench.
I would certainly expect the likes of van Persie and young Bendtner, who hasn't had a lot of football of late, to be involved.
'When you are talking about players of that quality it shows the strength Arsenal have at their disposal. It is wrong to call them fringe players, Arsene has two strong teams to choose from the one excellent squad of players.
'They are an outstanding team , but we've been successful in the past by not allowing them to play the type of football that they want and on occasions they do get frustrated at that and you can take advantage .
'You've got to be strong enough to go up against them and affect them and try to dictate to them. We are at home, we've got a point to prove and that is what we'll be looking to do.'
Arsene Wenger told Arsenal.com that he will make some major changes to his team after The Gunners' victory over Chelsea: 'The Carling Cup is more of a squad game, because we decided as a squad to go for every single trophy. Many players that didn't play against Chelsea will play at Blackburn on Tuesday night.
'My expectation is to qualify and go into the semi-finals, because we want to come back as well as we did last year and as well it is a good opportunity for my squad to show how strong the players who didn't play against Chelsea are.
'I believe in them, and it is good (for the fringe players) to show me 'we knock at the door and we want to play in the first team'.
'We use the competition for our players to grow up - but not only to grow up. It is also to show they are good enough to play in the Champions League and the Premier League.
'I believe as well what is fantastic is to see these players respond under the pressure of Premier League teams, and you can detect who is ready and who is not ready.'
Blackburn will be without defensive duo Brett Emerton and Andre Ooijer on Tuesday. Emerton is suspended after picking up a red card against Wigan, while Ooijer is out with a Hamstring injury picked up two weeks ago.
Matt Derbyshire is expected to keep Benni McCarthy out of the team.
The England midfielder has shown how talented he is so far this season, with some great goals and fantastic performances.
He'll keep Armand Traore busy throughout.
Manu Eboue is the only Arsenal player suffering from injury after Joe Cole took him out of the game on Sunday.
Fabregas, Hleb, Flamini and Van Persie all came through the game on Sunday unscathed, although it is unlikely the first three will play much part in the game.
Senderos could get a rare start in the centre of defence, with Hoyte and Traore occupying the full back posistions.
The young Dane has continued to impress as he get's more playing time. He didn't get long against Chelsea, but still looked un-fazed and very sharp.
If he starts, he'll hold the ball up well and bring others into play, just as he did against Sevilla.
I'll go for a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes and Arsenal to snatch it in extra time. Blackburn's form and loss of two defenders will cost them dear.
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Date:Monday December 17 2007
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