Arsenal look set to field another somewhat "under-strength" side (whatever
that means, these days) for tonight's FA Cup 5th round replay with
Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.|
Cesc Fabregas, who didn't have a particularly brilliant game against
Chelsea in the League Cup
final on Sunday, is set to be rested, as is Thierry Henry. The captain has
a minor injury, but one can't help feeling he'd be playing if it were a more
important game. He may well be rested for the Reading game on Saturday too, all
with the aim of ensuring he's available for the biggest game of the season,
at home to PSV Eindhoven next week.
Some of the absences are not through choice, however. Kolo Toure
and Emmanuel Adebayor are banned following their red cards on Sunday, and
Abou Diaby has an ankle injury caused by John Terry's head. Emmanuel Eboue's
charge of violent conduct is not due to be heard by the FA's disciplinary
board until tomorrow, so he is available.
We expect Gilberto and William Gallas to return to the side, however. The Brazilian
to captain the side and to be
partnered either by Matthieu Flamini or Denilson in the centre
of midfield. Matty would probably be preferred if it weren't for a foot injury
which is likely to see him miss the game. Tomas Rosicky is out with a groin injury,
and Theo Walcott may be rested because of his shoulder problem (although surgery
is being delayed as a result, they say, of Diaby's injury).
So, Alexander Hleb and Freddie Ljungberg on the wings, probably, and maybe
Jeremie Aliadiere and Julio Baptista up front again. Doesn't seem like
there's a lot of choice.
In defence Johan Djourou is out with an ankle problem and Justin Hoyte with a
hamstring strain. Eboue will probably start so as to get him up to speed for next week,
but Gael Clichy is in the squad but a doubtful starter. He's thought to be fit again
fromhis foot injury but perhaps wiser to rest him for another game with next Wednesday
in mind. William Gallas could play at left back but is needed to fill in for Toure
alongside Philippe Senderos so Armand Traore is likely to start again having
done pretty well on Sunday until Arjen Robben came on. Of course, Gilberto could
play at centre back allowing Gallas to play at left or right back.... but then who'd
play alongside Denilson in midfield?
Basically, we're a bit thin on the ground. Possible starting 11 is
Eboue Senderos Gallas Clichy/Traore
Hleb Gilberto Denilson Freddie
Subs: Poom, Traore/Clichy, Walcott, ummm, errr....
Rovers have few problems as far as availability is concerned. Chris Samba is a slight doubt with a
knee problem and Ryan Nelson missed the Portsmouth game at the weekend, but both are thought
to be ok for tonight. They also have long-term injuries to Andre Ooijer, Steven Reid, and Robbie Savage.
Benni McCarthy returns to the fold and is likely to replace
Matt Derbyshire as the lone striker.
I thought Mark Hughes' tactics in the first game were strange, that
he should have gone more for the win as the game went on,
and that we'd be strong favourites
for the replay.
But with us having a whole team missing through injury or suspension or
not caring about the FA Cup enough, and them missing just one player from their squad
tonight, perhaps his choice was inspired after all.
The winners face Manchester City in the quarter-final. We're going to need a display
similar to that which won the last replay at Bolton to get through this.