It’s FC Porto tonight in the first leg of our Champions League knockout clash and inevitably, injuries have struck again.
Already denied the services of Andrey Arshavin and Alex Song, our team has now been robbed of William Gallas, Eduardo and Manuel Almunia due to respective calf, hamstring and hand injuries.
While Eduardo’s absence shouldn’t affect the result too much, Gallas’ problem will see Sol Campbell drafted into the starting line-up, which should be novel if nothing else. Campbell was brought back to the club with this sort of situation in mind so there’s no real reason why he shouldn’t be able to get the job done. Away legs tend to be more about away goals rather than clean sheets but Thomas Vermaelen alongside Campbell a shutout remains achievable.
Denilson should step in for Alex Song, one of Tomas Rosicky or Samir Nasri for Arshavin while Lukasz Fabianski has been given a huge opportunity to stake his claim as a potential first-choice goalkeeper after the injury to Almunia.
The Polish goalkeeper recently spoke of his frustration at being unavailable and unable to capitalise when Almunia had his early season wobbles (which haven’t really stopped, mind you) so I’m sure he will be fired up to make the most of this opportunity. He’s unlikely to receive the aerial bombardment of a typical Premier League game and like Denilson, appears to me to be a player that might perform better in European competition. I am keen to see how he performs.
Despite the injuries it has to be said that we have a strong team and one that is capable of not only holding Porto at their home ground, but going there and winning. Nicklas Bendtner’s return to the team has given us a focal point while Abou Diaby and Cesc Fabregas, our two creative midfielders, are in excellent form at the moment. We might be missing five players but we’re still looking good.
It’s worth keeping in mind that if tonight turns out to be a disaster, with the second leg three weeks away we are likely to have a number of players back to try and overturn any deficit. Recent history might suggest that we will probably be without MORE players for that leg but I’m sure you get the point.
European football is back and I’m excited. Come on Arsenal!
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