Writer: Brice Coffer
Date:Monday February 23 2009
After another false dawn following an impressive cup performance, Arsenal will need to pick themselves up and regroup ever so quickly as the task gets no easier when AS Roma invades the Emirates on Tuesday.
This game should make for a better viewing than the Sunderland match did because there is no chance Roma will set up like Sbragia's men did. Arsenal's newly found defensive sturdiness will be tested like never before this year. Though come Tuesday night, I'm afraid we won't be talking about defense, but instead our lack of offense again.
Wenger had this to say leading up to the club's 200th European match. 'I don't believe Roma will come for a goalless draw,' said the Frenchman.
'They will play in an Italian way, catch us on the break because they know an away goal will give them a good chance.
'We will have to have a spot-on defensive performance and score goals against them.'
He went on to say this. 'We are, I believe, strong enough to beat them,' he told Sky Sports News.
'But in the Champions League at that level it's down to minor mistakes, being in good form on the day, being decisive and taking your chances.
'It's a very important game because I feel a big victory can give them the lift and confidence they need.
Abou Diaby will return to the Arsenal squad for the first time since being stretchered off in the final minute against West Ham. He will most likely return to the starting lineup to support van Persie at attacking midfield, as Wenger will probably set up in a 4-5-1 formation.
Clichy was taken off in the final minutes against Sunderland, and he proceeded to go straight down the tunnel. I have not heard any news on his condition so I would expect him to be on the team sheet, but if not Gibbs will have a big task ahead of him.
Other than Diaby, nobody else will return. Eduardo, Rosicky, Walcott, Fabregas, Adebayor, and Silvestre are all still out. Arshavin is cup tied and will not feature despite Wenger's complaints on the matter.
Possible starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue, Song, Denilson, Nasri, Diaby, van Persie
Wenger also targeted Denilson as player to watch because he will be in for a battle of the highest order against Daniele de Rossi.
This is what Wenger had to say about the battle. "When you play against Roma you know there is one battle you cannot lose and that is in midfield because that is their strong point."
"They play with a congested midfield and with a lot of short passing on the ground. If you lose that battle you will be second best."
I know Denilson has been asked to play as a defensive midfielder, but he has a good eye and we need him to take a few more gambles up field and not just pass it side to side.
Roma have an injury crisis of their own. Centreback Juan and striker Mirko Vučinić are both out, while Totti and right back Cicinho did not practice on Monday and are major doubts. Expect Italian U-21 captain Marco Motta to fill in for Cicinho and Simone Loria to take Juan's place. If Totti is not fit then former Gunner Baptista will head Roma's attack.
Again this goes back to the battle in the midfield. Arsenal dominated the AC Milan midfield last season which led to our progression onto the quarter finals. A similar situation will take place in these ties. Whichever midfield walks away with the upper hand throughout the two ties, then you can be sure it will be that team in the hat for the next round.
This is Arsenal's 200th European game.
Arsenal have met only twice before, when the two faced each other 02-03 Champions League group competition. Arsenal won 3-1 in Rome and tied 1-1 at Highbury.
van Persie and Daniele De Rossi are both one card shy of an automatic suspension.
We will have a officiating crew from Denmark for this match. Claus Bo Larsen will be the head official. He was also the head official during the Super Cup in August between Manchester United and Zenit St. Petersburg, where he sent off Paul Scholes for a laughable handball.
I'm pretty doubtful of an Arsenal success tomorrow night. I think a 1-0 Roma win or another 0-0 draw is the most likely result, but I will predict a one nil win for the Arsenal. van Persie to come up with one moment of brilliance to put Arsenal in good shape to progress.
28/2 (Sat)- Fulham (H)- Premier League
3/3 (Tue)- West Brom (A)- Premier League
8/3 (Sun)- Burnley (H)- FA Cup
Date:Monday February 23 2009
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