Finally the day has arrived and we are back to some meaningful football. Arsenal enters the Champions League fray in the third qualifying round agiants Dutch side, FC Twente. When the draw was made this fixture took special notice because it was Arsenal versus the former England failure Steve McClaren. The ex-Manchester United assistant took over Twente this summer and ironically his first real game will be against English opposition.
Even though this is a home game for Twente, the match will be played at the Gelredome instead of FC Twente`s home stadium, the Grolsch Veste, because they are increasing the capacity to 24,353.
Arsenal will be without many key players for this game because injuries have ravaged the Arsenal first team. How well Aaron Ramsey adapts to competitive football will be critical as will Johan Djourou`s partnership with William Gallas. With Kolo and Senderos out with injuries this is Djourou`s big chance to shine. He had a very positive loan spell at Birmingham in the beginning of last season but had many injuries during the latter portion of the season which kept him out of the Arsenal first team. He will want to be at his best today to impress the Professor.
Despite injuries Arsene is still confident on getting a result. The Frenchman said ‘We still have a very good team out tomorrow and hopefully we can get the result we want,” said Wenger.
‘We always have a very young midfield and a very young team at the moment but that does not mean we do not have experience.’
Robin Van Persie was asked who FC Twente was like in England and he replied “The English equivalent of Twente? T*ttenham!’ I`m not sure if he means that they are perennially underachievers with a once in a blue moon big win or what.
Fresh off of the loss against Arsenal, Ajax manager Marco Van Basten declared FC Twente has no chance at moving on to the group stages. “If you compare the teams and you have to bet on the result, most people would bet on Arsenal.
“Premier League clubs have a lot of money, that`s why they`re strong and have a lot of good players.”
Steve McClaren though thinks his side can find weaknesses in the Arsenal team. “On their day, Arsenal are the best football team in The Premier League, if not Europe” he said. “They have great players, pace and power, lovely football and can get goals out of anything. We have to find a solution to that. But I`ve watched Arsenal`s last two games and they have a few weaknesses.”
“We need to believe in ourselves. A lot of times the underdogs don`t perform because they don`t believe they can do it. The best team doesn`t always win. I know that more than anyone.”
Swiss striker Blaise Kufo is excited about playing the Gunners. “Playing against Arsenal is never easy but perhaps now is the best time to try and beat them” Kufo said. “Still they are very accomplished tactically and their game is full of pace so they remain very dangerous. I would have preferred a different opponent, someone from Eastern Europe or even Germany but the draw is made and we must approach the game full of optimism.”
“Nobody doubts that Arsenal are the favourites but that doesn`t mean anything.”
FC Twente Team News:
Kufo though is suspended from the first leg because of a red card last year in the UEFA cup against Getafe, but other than that all players seem to be available for McClaren`s choosing.
Player to watch: Theo Janssen
In an interview, Van Persie said that this was a player the Arsenal team needs to watch out for, and if Robin thinks he`s dangerous then he must be. The 27 year old midfielder will try to take advantage of the inexperienced youth in the Arsenal midfield.
Arsenal Team News:
Oh gosh where do I start? Diaby, Eduardo, Rosicky, Cesc, Toure, Senderos, Bischoff, Song and Nasri are all out. I refuse to dwell on injuries though. Almunia will start in goal with Clichy at left back and Sagna on the right and Djourou and Gallas in the centre. Walcott, Ramsey, Denilson, and Eboue should start in the midfield with Van Persie and Adebayor up front.
Player to watch: Aaron Ramsey
The young player, from Wales, will play his first real game for Arsenal and it will be a massive one. Because of the injuries to Nasri, Cesc, and Diaby, Arsene has been forced into throwing Ramsey straight into the deep end. He will need to adjust quickly to the fast pace game of top-class football, but based on his performances during the pre-season he should have no problem.
Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain)
This Spanish referee is fairly new to the international game. His first Champions League game was in 2007, when he officiated Bayern Munich v. Spartak Moscow. He also impressed at the U-20 World Cup in Canada during the summer of 2007.
3-1 to the Arsenal. Van Persie and Adebayor should have no problem getting a few goals against the Dutch side no matter who is in the midfield, though the lack of experience in the centre of the park for Arsenal should expose defensive frailties that will see us conceding at least one goal.