UEFA website says Song and Arshavin have not travelled to Ukraine. We already knew Cesc was going to miss this game and none of those who were unavailable before the West Ham derby are back. According to John Cross even Denilson has not travelled.
It will be very interesting to see the team Arsene puts out. We have three tricky Premiership games in the next week and any further injury problems could really stretch us.
The first thing I noticed was that all three of our defensive midfielders are missing. Will Arsene give the youngster Eastmond a chance at such a daunting venue?
Thankfully, we have Wilshere coming back and will fill one midfield role. The youngster must be fresh after his break and buoyed by his bumper contract. Hopefully, he will keep his tackling instincts in check; we need him available during this hectic period. Rough tackling could get him suspended and he could hurt himself, neither scenario will help the team.
I’m guessing Nasri will get another chance in his preferred attacking midfield role. Walcott could come in on the right and Rosicky on the left with either Chamakh or Bendtner playing as the central striker.
Arsene could shift Rosicky in the middle and have Vela or one of the strikers on the left but that would really affect the balance of the team.
There isn’t much to choose at the back. Djourou or Eboue could come in if Arsene decides to rest Sagna or one of the Centre Backs. I have seen Djourou play DM as well but will Wenger play him in that position in such a game? I doubt it.
The line-up I’d like to see is,
Fabianski – Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy – Eastmond, Wilshere, Nasri – Walcott, Bendtner, Rosicky.
We are bound to see a much improved and far more confident Shakhtar team in this game. Fanatical home support will also help them raise their game. Our defence and Keeper are likely to come under some pressure and I’m hoping for another big performance from the likes of Koscielny and Fabianski. The Frenchman will have a real battle against the fleet-footed Douglas Costa.
We really need a result in this game because a loss will see us on 9 points, tied with Shakhtar. That will force us to concentrate on winning both our remaining games. On the other hand a win here will afford us the freedom to play some youngsters in the other two fixtures.
Tactically I expect Shakhtar to press us higher up the pitch than what they did at the Emirates. Given the fact that we will have a makeshift midfield, the battle will be won or lost in the middle. If our central players can move the ball fast enough and support the defence, we will be able to create chances using the skills of Rosicky and Nasri and the pace of Theo. That’s the reason I’m a bit worried we will have to start someone like Eastmond who looks really nervous and struggles under pressure.
Walcott could be a real threat for us. I’m not sure the Shakhtar players will have ever come up against someone as explosive as the English youngster. Even then, we will have to take the chances that come our way; I can’t see us opening them up as easily as we did at home.
The home side, who have an excellent home record, both in terms of not losing and keeping clean sheets, will look to be compact and this game could be decided by individual mistakes.
To be honest, I’m not very confident about this one. A draw will be a good result, a win excellent.