Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Tuesday August 14 2007
Arsenal travel to Prague on Wednesday to play their first Champions League game since their shock exit in the second round at the hands of PSV back in March.
It'll not be as easy-a-game as last time Arsenal visited Prague, a new manager and an almost entirely new team will ensure that the Czech's will give a far better account of themselves this time round.
One major thing to look for in the game will be the tactics that Arsene Wenger will deploy. Will 4-5-1 be the order of the day? Will the formation that saw Arsenal beat Fulham, a 4-4-1-1, be the order of the day? Or will Arsene revert to a 4-4-2 in order to give Van Persie some more support?
The benefits of playing 4-5-1 are obvious - it offers more stability in the team and offers more defensive support. It would give Fabregas the same protection he has had over the last 18 months in the Champions League, meaning he is free to work his magic without having to worry so much about fighing for the ball.
4-4-2 would offer Robin Van Persie the support he seems to need in order to strut his stuff. When Arsenal played Fulham he looked out of the game for large periods, despite Arsenal dominating posession. Only when Bendtner came on did he show his true class. This would certainly be the formation I would like to see, a combative Flamini and towering Bendtner would complimnt both Fabregas in midifled, and Van Persie up front, allowing both to do what they do best - create and score goals!
It's likely that not much will change fromt the tactics deployed over the last 2 seaons in the Champions League, meaning Eboue ill probably play on the right wing once again, with Hleb, Fabregas and Flamini in the middle, flanked by former Sparta man Tomas Rosicky.
Tomas Rosicky has already said that his return to Prague will be an emotional one on his part. I'm afraid to say that I can't see the home fans feeling the same way so expect him to suffer a torrent of abuse when he's on the
As I mentioned, Tomas Rosicky says that his return to Prague will be emotional for him after coming through the Czech giants youth academy.
Speaking to Arsenal TV Online Tommy said: 'It will be the first time I have played against them.
'I grew up there. This is my club. I was there from seven or eight until my 20s and Sparta Prague prepared me for all the steps throughout my career.
My brother played for Sparta Prague and my father played for Sparta Prague so it is a bit emotional.
It will be strange for me because I have feelings for the club.'
The midfielder may sound slightly reluctant to face his boyhood club, but he has the backing of his current manager: 'It is a game where Tomas is a bit more under pressure than others because of the extra scrutiny.
'But he is classy and I feel he is at the age where he can get the right balance in the final third.
'He is sharp, quick and lively. We want him to give key passes and score goals - and I am convinced he will.'
Michal Bilek knows that Rosicky is a threat, and will be hoping Sparta can keep him quiet: 'We mustn't give him any space because he is very dangerous when unmarked.
'We don't just want an acceptable result,'
'Only a win will keep our chances alive going into the return leg, and I hope the sell-out crowd will help us.'
Sparta will be without 2 centrebacks for the game after Jan Simunek departe for Wolfsburg.
Jiri Kladrubsky could make his European debut on the left.
Došek is a typical No.9 - big, strong, powerful, and just what the Arsenal back four hate to play against.
At 6 foot 6 inches, he'll give Arsenal's defence a rough ride for the duration.
Arsenal will once again be missing 5 players.
Adebayor(groin), Gilberto (on holiday), da Silva, Denilson and Daiby (all ankle) will miss the trip.
The team which started against Fulham is likely to play again.
This boy was made to play European football. He may not have the physical strength that's ideal in the Premiership, but he has as much technical ability as any Premiership player.
Always looking to go forward and make things happen, he'll be a key player on Wednesday, espically if he's played in the hole again.
Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo will over see the first leg. I would give you some stats on the man, but I haven't got any, so I can't.
It wont be an easy game for Arsenal, but don't the Gunners just love the big ones? I'm going for a 3-1 away win. Van Persie to grab one for Arsenal before Hleb (yes HLEB) adds another. Došek will pull one back but Rosicky will make himself even more popular in Prague by scoring a long range effort late on for Arsenal.
Date:Tuesday August 14 2007
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|1. Leicester City||25||15||8||2||+20||53|
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|5. Man Utd||25||11||8||6||+10||41|
|6. West Ham||25||10||9||6||+9||39|
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