Arsenal’s Champions League campaign kicks off tonight at Emirates Stadium against Portuguese runners-up Braga.
The team news going into the game is mixed: Thomas Vermaelen is still out, Abou Diaby joins him on the injury table while Samir Nasri is fit enough to start. Whether he does or not is another matter, the manager may be happy to give him another few days rest and risk any re-occurrence of the knee injury that has kept him out for a month.
Arsene Wenger rested a number of players in the weekend win over Bolton and fullbacks Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna are almost certain to return to the starting team. They will be joined in defence by Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny with Manuel Almunia sure to start in goals again.
The manager’s comments that he must not prioritise this Champions League encounter over the Premier League match with Sunderland on the weekend means there could be some interesting choices in midfield. Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Denilson are the likeliest starting trio, yet I can see Jack Wilshere given another opportunity to play in front of the home fans in a game where we should dominate possession.
Up front Wenger has little choice but to start with Marouane Chamakh, a player he has called a “really selfless team player”, with support from Andrey Arshavin, Carlos Vela, Tomas Rosicky or Emmanuel Eboue. Personally I can see Vela and Eboue given the go-ahead on the left and right respectively, with Arshavin and Rosicky in need of a rest to freshen up their minds as much as their bodies.
I must admit I don’t know much about Braga – unlike Michael Cox from Zonal Marking who appears to know everything about everyone! – but you have to think we should beat the Portuguese runners-up at home. After all, we put four past Porto in the Round of 16 last season and they finished ahead of Braga in the league and beat them 3-2 at the weekend just passed.
Unfortunately I won’t be able to watch this game – I quite inconveniently organised dinner with some friends that I simply cannot cancel on – so the match report will be coming to you from the man who dishes out the player ratings, Yemi. I’m pretty disappointed (about missing the game, not Yemi writing the match report), but I suppose it’s a small price to pay for being able to watch the games at a reasonable hour!
COME ON ARSENAL!
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