After a monumental day in Arsenal’s recent history what better way to get on with our lives than getting stuck straight into some football?
A very sloppy end to last season left us needing to qualify for the Champions League proper, and a tricky tie against Italian team Udinese was the punishment our inability to close out games last term.
The Gunners kick off the two legged tie with home advantage with the away leg hosted in just 8 days time.
I don`t think there`s any need for me to remind you just how important this match is.
Arsene Wenger on Nicklas Bendtner: “In his interview Bendtner said he was gone, but I checked and he`s not gone at all!”
Udinese ‘keeper Samir Handanovic ain`t afraid of no host “I’m not afraid of Arsenal, last year in the league we prepared well for games against the big sides and we did well, so you should always be optimistic. I know I am.”
Arsenal Team News:
The Gunners are looking for a new skipper today, however in all likelihood, Arsenal vice-captain Robin van Persie will slot in seamlessly to take over the reigns. However the Dutchman is suspended for tonight`s match after his scandalous sending off vs Barcelona last season.
With Gervinho and Song most probably missing the next 3-4 league games, they will no doubt be starters tonight. Indeed with no other injury news to the positive or negative, I`d expect the starting line up to be pretty much unchanged, with Chamakh slotting in for RvP and maybe Walcott in for Arshavin, but that remains to be seen.
Player to watch: Gervinho
After his misdemeanour against Newcastle at the weekend, it`s certainly going to be interesting to see how Gervinho reacts. He`s looked very promising in pre-season, and attacked the Newcastle defence with power and purpose. However his final ball was lacking somewhat.
Udinese Team News:
Much like Arsenal, Udinese have lost one of their most potent players to Barcelona. Alexis Sanchez scored 12 goals in 32 games for Udinese after becoming one of the most exciting players for his national team at the 2010 world cup, he no doubt will be a big loss.
Udinese also lost Cristian Zapata to Villarreal and former Arsenal target Gokhan Inler to Napoli. So they too will be weaker than last season.
Player to watch: Antonio Di Natale
Antonio Di Natale is Udinese danger man. He netted a mammoth 30 goals in 41 games in all competitions last season, scoring from all angles. He`s also pretty handy from set pieces. However at 33 years of age he could struggle to keep up with the pace of the youthful Gunners.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsenal have only lost one of their last 38 home European games (to Manchester United) so Udinese will have their work cut out to get a win here.
I`m going to be behold and suggest a 2-0 home win.
Liverpool (h)Sat 20th August – 12:45
Udinese (a) Wed 24th August – 19:45
Man Utd (a) Sun 28th August – 16:00