Tonight sees us take on Villarreal in the first leg of the Champions League quarter final. The game is away at their Estadio El Madrigal and it will certainly provide a test for our young squad, but I am quietly confident that we can get a positive result tonight.
Team news so far is that Van Persie is out, along with Eduardo, Diaby (surprise, surprise) and Rosicky. The good news however is that Nasri returns and there are no fresh injuries reported from Saturday’s game. I would expect Nasri to slot back in in place of Arshavin, who is cup-tied, and for Wenger to leave the team otherwise unchanged from that which started against City at the weekend.
The full squad for tonight is as follows:
1 Manuel ALMUNIA (GK)
3 Bacary SAGNA
4 Cesc FABREGAS
5 Kolo TOURE
8 Samir NASRI
10 William GALLAS
12 Carlos VELA
14 Theo WALCOTT
17 Alex SONG
18 Mikael SILVESTRE
20 Johan DJOUROU
21 Lukasz FABIANSKI (GK)
22 Gael CLICHY
25 Emmanuel ADEBAYOR
26 Nicklas BENDTNER
27 Emmanuel EBOUE
40 Kieran GIBBS
You would imagine that the Villarreal players will be looking to get revenge for us dumping them out of the same competition in 2006 and you couldn’t blame them for that. We’d be the same if the situation was reversed.
In the Mirror, Wenger talks about money and how the decision to build a new stadium meant that we had no choice but to go with a youth policy. Nothing new there really. He also reiterates that he has always had belief in the current squad, but you would hope though that it hasn’t been unwavering belief and that around October and November of last year he must, surely, have been asking some serious questions about the squad. I suppose the signing of Arshavin was an admission from the manager that something was indeed missing from the squad, although his version of what was missing didn’t really jive with what most fans thought was missing. However, you can’t really argue with the results.
In the Sun he also talks about the fact that we are ‘super-outsiders’ in the Champions League and I must admit that I like it when we are underdogs. I like the us-against-them mentality and it should also help to take a bit of pressure of the younger players and allow them to play with a little more freedom that if great expectation and pressure were heaped on them.
It turns out that Walcott’s injury is bone bruising and blood on the knee. The bruising could take a few weeks to fully clear up, but he should be ok. hopefully he won’t get any more kicks on that knee for a while in order to let it clear up. Elsewhere, Almunia talks about how this could be the year when our squad of boys become men and achieve something. Let’s hope he is right. He does throw out the mother of all hypotheticals by talking about Diaby and Walcott being fully fit. It’s hard enough to get them fit individually, but to have them both fit and in the squad at the same time is about as rare as this.
I’ll be keeping it short today as time is at a premium if I’m to get to bed early in order to get up for the game. If anyone knows of a stream for the game, please post it in the comments as my satellite connection hasn’t been restored yet.
Big game tonight. Come on you Reds!!!!!!!!