Looking at Arsenal’s form so far, success in the Champions League seems quite a possibility. Arsenal have hammered 14 goals from their opening three games and conceded just 2. This Arsenal side is renowned for it’s attacking prowess but as we have seen lately, bar the 3-2 humiliation by West Brom at Emirates, the defence is really starting to step up. Arsenal are coming into this game with 3 consecutive clean sheets to the names of Fabianski and Szczesny. The absence of Almunia is proving to be of immense help.
Arsenal can make it to the knockout stages of the Champions League with a win tonight. It would be an added advantage to qualify this early so Wenger can save his big guns for the other competitions. And looking at the form, it shouldn’t be a problem. 15 goals in the last 5 games and conceding just 2. However, away from home Arsenal usually are a shadow of themselves; especially in Ukraine. They haven’t managed a win in Ukraine in the previous 4 attempts, losing thrice and drawing once. Even away from Ukraine, Arsenal have managed just a one win in their last 5 Champions League away fixtures. Not a thrilling record there, is it? But it could be a different story for the Gunners this time around as the confidence is fast growing in the side that this could finally be the season they end their hopeless run of 5 barren years.
Arsenal will surely face a different Shakhtar than the one they breezed past at the Emirates. That defeat, in fact, was Shakhtar’s only defeat this season. They have managed to win 18 of their 21 games so far. They will be looking to avenge the hammering, and it doesn’t look a distant possibility.
As for the team news, Arsenal will be handicapped. Cesc Fabregas will be rested as more of a precautionary measure. Arshavin, Denilson and Song are also doubts and will face late fitness tests to determine their availability. Other than them van Persie, Ramsey, Vermaelen and Almunia will remain on the sidelines. The only good news is that that teenage prodigy Jack Wilshere will return. Here’s the lineup I expect:
Sagna Koscielny Squillaci Clichy
Nasri Song Wilshere
Walcott Chamakh Rosicky
I would love to see Szczesny ahead of Fabianski. The back four picks itself, they are in quite a form. Song might be replaced by Rosicky with Wilshere playing the holding role, depending on Song’s fitness. Up front, Bendtner might be given a chance and Chamakh a rest. It’s amazing to see such a strong lineup despite the huge amount of injuries. What a squad we have!
Expecting a close encounter but hopefully a resilient Arsenal can come home with the three points. Fingers crossed.