Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Saturday February 16 2008
Arsene Wenger is almost certain to rest some key players, despite the massive list of injuries going into a crucial few days of Arsenal's season. More on all that later.
No matter what team Arsene Wenger fields, you can bet your life it'll be an enthralling game. Arsene Wenger will stick to his guns and play an attacking lineup, although he could well set up with a 4-5-1 to offer more defensive stability. That would certainly be wise considering Sagna is out for personal reasons, and Clichy is a doubt with a hamstring problem.
Ol' purple nose has confirmed he will tinker with his team slightly, with one or two changes being made.
There's no doubt that Fergie will have his team well up for this one after two poor performances in the league.
Both managers will be desperate to avoid a replay as fixtures mount up for the Premiership run-in, while the Champions League kicks off again on Tuesday.
United may not have won either of their last two games, but they've conceeded just 4 goals in their last eight games, while scoring 18 goals in that time!
Last six (league and FA Cup): P6 W4 D1 L1
Arsenal's form is pretty good too. we've conceeded just two in our last six League and FA Cup games, and scored 15. Not bad eh?
Arsenal last six (league and FA Cup): P6 W5 D1 L0.
So with both teams in such fine fettle, and with the intense rivalry between the two managers back, it's all set for a fantastic match.
Arsene Wenger gave us a clue about his tactics in his pre-match press confrence when he spoke about Ronaldo. The Arsenal manager said: 'The only way to stop Ronaldo is to get him to defend.'
Fergie actually had some words of praise for Arsenal, and warned everyone to 'fasten their seatbelts' ahead of the match: 'Fasten your seatbelts.'
'It will be a typical United-Arsenal game, full of great commitment, with competitive football, but good play as well. Both teams play good football.
'Over the 20-odd years I've been here, Manchester United and Arsenal have been competing for trophies most of the time.
'For me personally, it has been a challenge against George Graham and now with Arsene Wenger.
'These two clubs are run the right way and here for the long run when you look at the structure of both clubs.
'You know that in five or six years time there won't be many fundamental changes, given the ages and composition of both sets of players.'
Arsene Wenger said his team will dig deep and fight when they line up tomorrow: 'We will dig deep tomorrow because we want to win the game and we want to qualify.'
'Manchester United are a big club and certainly they will want to respond to the two disappointments they had recently, so it promises to be an interesting tie tomorrow.
'We will fight, don't worry. It's always better to win because it makes you stronger.
'I believe highly in that influence. You want to win and you want to win the big games especially because it makes your whole squad stronger.
'And I certainly feel they are still in the title race anyway. Two games ago we were second.
'That shows you how quickly it can change from one day to the next. And this year, it changes very quickly.'
United will be without skipper Gary Neville and Frenchman Mikel Silvestre. Louis Saha returns from a knee injury to give United a more direct option up front.
England striker Wayne Rooney returns from his suspension, as does left back Patrice (annagram of Pat Rice) Evra.
As much as I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire, he's a fantastic footballer and will pose a massive threat to Arsenal's goal, espically when he moves down the flanks with Clichy and Sagna missing.
Where do I start? It'd be quicker to give you a list of players that are fit, rather than those that are injured.
No one returns from injury since Monday, but both Kolo Toure and Manu Eboue return from international duty.
As I've mentioned, Sagna is out for personal reasons, while Clichy (knee and hamstring), Adebayor (muscular problem) and Song (muscular problem) join Arsenal's worryingly large injury list.
The clinical Crozillian could be crucial with the likelyhood of their being very few chances. His deadly finishing will cause Van Der Sar problems if he get's any chances.
Little Alan Wiley will referee the match. If I'm not mistaken, he's got history with Rooney? Mind you, like most English Referees, he seems to have a dislike for Arsenal.
Although Arsenal have been in good form at both ends of the pitch, all their injuries will cost them a place in the next round. Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal. The return of Rooney, Evra and Saha is a massive boost, while the loss of Adebayor is a massive one for Arsenal.
Date:Saturday February 16 2008
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