Arsenal face their toughest battle in the Champions league this season when they host Schalke later today. The Gunners head in the match behind a harsh 1-0 defeat at Norwich last weekend adding up to their early season wobbles. The Bundesliga outfit Schalke managed to undo Champions Dortmund at the weekend and will be a big threat to the Gunner’s defencse and with attackers like Huntelaar and Afellay, it could be a tough night for the North Londoners. Schalke has just lost one game in the season so far and they will be carrying their momentum from last week’s derby win.
Arsenal will know that a victory at home will almost surely guarantee them a place in the knockout stages and this will also allow Wenger to rest his big names in the future games. But the victory is not an easy fruit to ripe as Arsenal tend to struggle facing high flying wingers and fast pace counter attacks. The German side will exactly look to do that when the get the ball. The Gunners have been poor in finishing chances this season and looking at the performance against Norwich, Arsenal and its strikers have to improve a lot in the striking department.Cazorla will once again be the key man for Arsenal
Arsene Wenger revealed the following team news ahead of their third Champions League tie:
[on the latest updates] We lost Oxlade-Chamberlain, he will not be back. The only player who will be back in the squad, recovering, is Koscielny.
[on Walcott’s contract talks] They are going on but there is no news about that. The good news is that Theo had his first run today and is looking quite well so he should be back shortly.
[on reports of Juventus’ interest in Walcott] My determination has always been the same, to extend his contract. [Whether] other clubs are interested or not, the determination is the same.
With the likes of Theo Walcott and Chamberlian out, it is left to Gervino, Giroud and Podolski to carry the attack forward. Gervino has been on the score sheets regularly this season but when he is started at the wings, with Giroud up front the Ivorian tends to waste possession and lose the ball. He dribbles at times when he has to pass to the striker, who is standing in no man’s land. But when started upfront without Giroud he seems to have a good match. This is a bigger headache for Wenger who already faces selection headaches at the back with Gibbs and Szczesny still out of action.
However the return of Jack Wilshere, who was found in the bench against Norwich City will be a boost for the Gunners. It can be expected that Wilshere will play some part of the game and Arsenal fans will be looking forward to relish that moment. And defender Laurent Koscielny will also make it to the bench if he passes the fitness test in the morning.
Probable line-up: Vito Mannone; Karl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen, Andre Santos; Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla; Gervinho, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski.
Prediction: 2-1 victory for the Gunners
Arsenal have an impressive record in Europe as they have not lost a home fixture against non-English opposition in 45 matches (the last loss came against Inter in 2003) and they are still hot favorites to pip Schalke despite their poor showing on the weekend.
The Complete list of injured stars:
Alex Oxlade – Chamberlain – Hip
Lukasz Fabianski – Back
Theo Walcott – Lung
Tomas Rosicky – Tendon
Kieran Gibbs – Thigh
Abou Diaby – Thigh Strain.
Wojciech Szczesny – Ankle