Yesterday saw the Champions League group stages kick off with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid proving to be the standout performers on a good night of football. Later today will see Arsenal play their first match of the group stages, a tough away trip to the Ukraine to play a Dinamo Kiev side which defeated Spartak Moscow 8-2 on aggregate in the qualifiers.
Arsene Wenger is well aware of just how difficult an opening game this may prove to be for the Arsenal boys, going as far to say that he would be content to take a point away from Kiev. In the manager’s own words:
“We’ll go there and try to win the game but even if we take a point then for me it will be a good start. Dynamo Kyiv knocked out Spartak Moscow 4-1, 4-1. When you know Spartak Moscow and how strong the Russian League is at the moment that means it is a tough draw. I saw the first game at Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Kyiv were really impressive.”
Last season Kiev were awful in the Champions League, by my recollections failing to grab even a single point from their six group stage matches. However, their demolition of Spartak Moscow in the qualifiers suggest they will pose a stronger threat this season than last and Wenger’s assertation that a point out of this game would be a good start might not be too far off the mark.
Regardless, this is a game that most Arsenal fans will be hoping we can win and given the squad that has made the trip to the Ukraine, one that we should. While Samir Nasri and Mikael Silvestre have unexpectedly missed out through injury, both Emmanuel Eboue and Gael Clichy have been passed fit, meaning the starting side shouldn’t be too different to the one that defeated Blackburn 4-0 on the weekend.
It should be mentioned that Jack Wilshere is also traveling with the squad. This of course means that if the Englishman manages to get on the pitch against Dinamo he will break Cesc Fabregas’ record as the youngest player ever to represent Arsenal in the Champions League, just three days after he broke the record as the youngest player ever to represent Arsenal in the Premiership. Good stuff.
One man who has had some things to say about Arsenal’s chances of winning the Champions League this season is last weekend’s hat-trick hero, Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese striker was interviewed by the folks at Arsenal.com and you can read a full transcript of that interview here. It’s quite an interesting read and there were a couple of things which were said which really stuck out to me.
Firstly, that Cesc Fabregas and Kolo Toure are the only players left in the squad which played in the losing final against Barcelona in 2006. A remarkable statistic, given that the game was played less than three years ago. And secondly, that Adebayor has been at two clubs that have made the Champions League final – but did not get to play in either match. The first was Monaco, whom he sat on the bench for against Porto in 2005. The second was of course Arsenal, whom he was ineligible to play due to being cup-tied after his transfer from Monaco.
Hopefully it’s third time lucky for Emmanuel this season and hopefully the Arsenal boys can get off to a positive start against Kiev tonight. Let me know what you think the result is going to be in today’s edition of the Wednesday Poll.
Update: No Wednesday Poll today. The program I use to do my polls is buggering up. Sorry about that.
Personally I think we’ll return home with a sneaky win, something like 1-0 or 2-1. But as Wenger implied, a draw certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Come on Arsenal!
Have your say on Arsenal’s Champions League opener or Adebayor’s interview by leaving a comment.