Writer: Brice Coffer
Date:Tuesday December 9 2008
Estádio do Dragão
In a season that has been littered with disappointment and inconsistency, the Arsenal first team has managed to scrap together two wins in a row for the first time since October, when we beat Fenerbache in Turkey and West Ham at Upton Park.
In this final 2008 Champions League group stage match, Arsenal needs to leave Portugal with at least a point to secure a first place seed in Februarys` knock out rounds, but if this objective is not reached then Porto will top Group G.
Wenger is looking to qualify first, while still looking forward to Middlesbrough. "It is difficult to say [if it will be important] but would we not feel guilty if we had a massive draw in the last 16?" asked Wenger. "We would have not done something when we know it can punish us.
"We want to finish first because we want to be the best. But it does not seem that first or second will make a huge difference this year."
"I want to protect the team for the 12.45pm kick-off at Middlesbrough but as well finish the job in the Champions League and not lose at Porto."
Porto manager, Jesualdo Ferreira, is looking for his squad to bounce back from the throttling at the Emirates. 'There will be no vendetta against Arsenal. Porto will be just playing with great responsibility,' explained Ferreira.
"It is very important to progress in this competition. It is what every player and coach wants. The game tomorrow will be just to decide who is first or second, nothing else."
"Both teams will come here relaxed because they are already qualified, and so it should be a great game to watch. It is in our philosophy to win every game and we will play to do that."
The Dragons are in fine form as of late, as the currently hold a six game win streak in all competitions, and have clawed themselves back into the title race, as they are just 5 points behind Benfica with a game in hand. Their last game was on Saturday, where they beat Vitória FC three to nil, with goals coming from Bruno Alves, Guarín, Lucho.
Porto will be without starting right back Cristian Sapunaru, as he picked up a thigh injury, and they will also be missing Fernando and Pedro Emmanuel.
The 'Hulk` has talked up this game as a perfect opportunity for Porto to exact revenge on Arsenal, so he will be ready to follow up on his promise. His type of striker has caused Arsenal defenders many problems in this season and in seasons past, so Djourou and Gallas will have to be at their best to control the big green beast.
Arsenal have plenty of injuries coming into this last group match. We will start with the good news first, as Gallas and Diaby are back for this game, though Nasri, Clichy, Sagna, Toure, Cesc, van Persie, and Adebayor will all be missing for various reasons.
This makes room for many of the Carling Cup stars to get into the squad. Kieran Gibbs, Gavin Hoyte, Mark Randall, Fran Merida, Jack Wilshire, Aaron Ramsey, and Jay Simpson have traveled to Portugal.
Putting it nicely, Eboue had a horror afternoon on Saturday in his first start in over five weeks. After being booed off the pitch, he walked straight down the tunnel, but in tomorrow's fixture he will be needed to bounce back and fill in on the right wing because of our massive injury list. It will be interesting to see the reaction he gets from the away support, and I for one hope he gets a nice reception to show he is still an essential part of this squad.
Arsenal won the reverse fixture in this group by four goals to nil, with van Persie and Adebayor both grabbing braces for the Gunners. Two years ago when Arsenal went to Portugal, a boring and tedious affair followed as neither team threatened to break through, and it ended 0-0.
Greek referee, Kyros Vassaras, will be the head official for this game, while Dimitris Bozatzidis and Cristos Gennaios will be the linesmen, and Michail Koukoulakis is the fourth official.
A fatal flaw for Porto in this game will be their mentality to attack Arsenal. If you remember the game at the Emirates in September, Porto came very close to opening the scoring on numerous occasions, but they didn`t and it cost them. I see this game following the same trend with Porto pressing early but Arsenal prevailing in the end with a score of 3-1.
13/12 (Sat)- Middlesbrough (A)- Premier League
21/12 (Sun)- Liverpool (H)- Premier League
26/12 (Fri)- Aston Villa (A)- Premier League
Date:Tuesday December 9 2008
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