I am not sure if I should be confident about this game or be worried. Till I read the reports today I was quite sure we will get through to the next round without any problems.
Porto’s away record in general and their history with English teams is in our favor. The performance I saw at the Estadio Do Dragao left me convinced the game at the Emirates will be a cakewalk. Our players have shown great spirit in the recent games and some of them are in great form. Normally, these many positives would be enough, but there is something that’s worrying me.
Injuries are obviously a concern. Our history in Europe is another. I guess the biggest concern is the goals we have been gifting this season. The away goals rule can kill us if we have a couple of goof-ups or Porto manage to score a freak goal.
We need to control the pace of this game. In Portugal it was too frantic and we were exposed at the back quite often. The visitors might not be as clinical as some of the top European sides but it’s just not worth the risk.
Lack of patience has been a problem for us in the past, especially in the big games. I’m hoping the players have learnt from the past and know what needs to be done. Since we are missing Cesc and Arshavin might not play the full game, we will definitely need to wait for the right chance.
Porto will look to play on the counter and speed will be their biggest asset. We have to ensure that Campbell is not left on his own holding a high line. It might be worthwhile asking one of the full backs to hold back and help out in defense.
- Arsenal haven’t won a two legged European tie after losing the first leg for 32 years. It is certainly a good chance to make history
- Porto have lost on all six visits to London.
Song will come in for Denilson, Campbell should come in for Silvestre, and Diaby for Cesc. We might see Sagna replacing Eboue, although the Ivorian certainly deserves to keep his place after his recent performances.
I believe this game is perfect for Nasri to stamp his class in central midfield. Walcott needs to show that he can be consistent while Bendtner cannot afford a repeat of his last outing.
I also get a feeling that Almunia will have to make a couple of important saves in this one.
I think the starting eleven will look like,
Almunia; Sagna, Campbell, Vermaelen, Clichy; Song, Nasri, Diaby; Walcott, Bendtner, Arshavin.
Rosicky could come in for the Russian around the hour mark. He might even start if the Russian isn’t fully match fit.
In the pre-match press conference Arsene said,
It will be an amazing achievement if we get through.
He was talking in the context of the injuries we have to the spine of the team (Gallas, Cesc, Van Persie). I find this a little unnerving. We have to look forward to qualification with a lot of confidence and not as an amazing achievement.