Jose Antonio Reyes is reported to be fit and available,
and so seems certain to start up front alongside Thierry Henry
at the Bernebeu this evening. There must be some doubt over
his fitness, but there'll be no doubt over his commitment
as he goes back to Spain with his English club. |
Since Wenger has (surprisingly) not taken Arturo Lupoli, the
only likely alternative to Reyes is Theo Walcott. There is less
doubt over Walcott's fitness since he has at least played a
full 90 minutes (for the reserves) since returning from
injury, but he hasn't turned out for the first team at all
yet. Wenger has made it pretty clear that Walcott won't start,
saying "There is a chance he will play because he is doing
well in training and if I feel that he can help us at any
moment I will bring him on".
In defence we have three decent centre backs available, and
the more experienced Cup final pairing of Kolo Toure and
Philippe Senderos will get the nod ahead of the exciting
prospect Johan Djourou. We have Emmanuel Eboue at right
back and, presumably, Mathieu Flamini at left back. I'm
still puzzled by the preference for Flamini ahead of
Sebastian Larsson, but perhaps tonight's the night for
Matty to show us why. It's not an experienced defensive
line, but with Djourou on the bench and the fact that Kolo and Big Phil
have played at right and left back respectively, we will at
least have a bit of defensive cover for a change.
In midfield it's hard to see Wenger doing anything but stick
with the experienced line-up of Freddie Ljungberg, Gilberto,
Cesc, and Robert Pires. But you never know. Alex Hleb and
Abou Diaby are the options and many fans will be hoping that,
if we get over-run in midfield, Diaby is brought on to add
a bit of power.
Ashley Cole, incidentally, is back in training and rumoured to
have been keen to play. But
he's only had an hour of first team training so it's been decided not to rush him back. An understandable
decision, given that he came back slightly earlier than planned
last time and ended up out injured for a few more weeks.
That was in the 7-0 drubbing
of Boro, when Pascal Cygan got injured and Ash had to come off
the bench. Wenger hasn't even named him in the squad for this one,
perhaps to ensure that he's not tempted to risk Ash's fitness. It's
good news anyway, if Cole can return and stay fit, it could be
just the boost that we need in the league (and could make a
hell of a difference in the second leg of today's encounter).
For the record, our injury list currently contains Gael Clichy, Dennis Bergkamp, Robin van Persie, Pascal Cygan, Sol Campbell, Lauren, and Kerrea Gilbert. Check back through this NewsReel topic, or see official site for details.
Real have been playing in fits and starts of late and, like
Arsenal, will be hoping that they've been saving the best for
the Champs League. Real have
been hit by a potential blow to morale
this week, with Ronaldo giving
a press conference basically
slagging off the fans - saying that they don't give enough
support and suggesting that he won't be there much longer.
The official Real site carries a
for which one has to have doubts about the translation. When asked about his
relationship with the Bernebeu fans he says he's never had any
problem with them, then goes on at some length about the problems he does have.
Perhaps the first bit is supposed to say that he's never had problems
with fans before now?
But he'll probably start up front along with Robinho, despite reports that Raul is available
Real are expected to continue with Sergios Ramos at the back alongside
Jonathan Woodgate, wuth Thomas Gravesen playing in front of the
defence. Gravesen has found favour with new boss Lopez Caro simce
he took over in December, having
not got so many games under sacked Wanderlust Luxemburgo. Helguera has
been left out
of the squad altogether, the first time that a fit Helguera has been left out since
joining the club in 1999. Helguera is only 30, but it seems like his
time may have come and is unlikely to make the Spanish World Cup squad.
Like Ronaldo, it seems like he may well be looking for a new club in
the summer. Like Ronaldo, there's been talk of a move to the Premiership.
And like Ronaldo, there will be talk of Arsenal. I can't see us going
for Ronaldo but if Helguera doesn't mind being a squad player, who
knows...? We want to see the youngsters come through in his position
but he'd be excellent cover for them.
David Beckham is one booking away from a UEFA ban which would
see him miss the return leg at Highbury. He and Gravesen will
probably be joined in midfield by Zidane and Guti, although there is
also the option of Baptista.
Of course, tonight's match is going to be one hell of a
test for the Arsenal. But if you look at our line-up we're
not looking half as weak as some will say. The big area for
me is going to be midfield. Do we have to steel to stop them over-running us there, to help the young defence as well as provide a bit of service for Henry and Reyes. I think we'll be
seeing those two dropping back a hell of a lot. If the
"up-fot-it" Thierry and Reyes play, they could be our most
If you look at Real's line-up... well perhaps it's best not to think about that too much. All I'll say is, we can get a
result, a single away goal could make all the difference, and
whatever happens tonight just remember that the tie is only half