Arsenal are in Portugal tonight for their Champions League clash against Braga. The Gunners need just a draw to ensure qualification into the knock-out rounds, but Arsene Wenger's men will undoubtedly be looking for a comprehensive win to bounce back from the crushing defeat at the weekend against Spurs. We'll be looking to take all three points this evening to ensure we finish top of the group - it could be very important later on in the competition.
The less said about the North London derby the better. I didn't watch it, instead I had to suffer through it by checking the BBC Football site whilst I was at work. You can imagine the joy I felt when I saw we were 2-0 up, thanks to Nasri and Chamakh. "Excellent!" I thought. So I checked later on to see it was 2-2, and I knew right then and there that the hurt wasn't over yet. Reluctantly I checked the web again, and to my dismay I saw the final score, 3-2 to Spurs. "Urrrrrrrrrrrgh" was what I came out with, or some rude curse word. It just pisses me off that we, A) Keep dropping points at home, B) We didn't capitalise on Chelsea losing AGAIN, and C) We gave away a two goal lead to the old enemy and lost. No doubt you can expect another classless DVD release from the marketing department in Tottenham very soon.
When you lose in such a fashion as Arsenal did, it is crucial to bounce back with a display that the team and the fans will be proud of, to show us all that the world is not in fact crumbling around us as we speak (maybe a bit dramatic...). Travelling away in the Champions League is never an easy task, as the previous clash against Shakthar demonstrated. I expect Braga to present us with a similar challenge, and I don't imagine the Gunners will cruise to a dominant win like we did when we last faced the Portuguese side. Especially as it appears Arsene will be resting some of our key players tonight.
From my understanding, Arshavin, van Persie and Clichy have not travelled for tonight's game, due to injuries and Wenger wanting to rotate the squad a bit. Clichy has a back problem, but its not such a problem when the young Gibbs can just slot right in. I can understand van Persie being rested, as we all know his track record with injuries - it's probably a smart move to save him for a more important game. I'm still a little disappointed not see Robin on the bench though; he's always been one of my favourite players on the team, so I always like to see him get some minutes. Hopefully it won't be long until he's 100% fit and back in the starting lineup. Arshavin's exclusion from the squad is not a big surprise, as we have adequate cover for him and it won't hurt him to get some rest for a few days.
Apparently Cesc may also be on the bench as a precaution, but he is still in line for a potential start. Again, it makes sense for Wenger not to risk our captain in a game where we realistically only need a point. Given Fabregas's recent troubles with his hamstring, it's a wise decision. Wilshere, Nasri or Rosicky can fill in for Cesc when needed and I expect that will happen tonight. So that's the people who are missing, but who is actually going to play? Well, I'm not Arsene Wenger so I don't know, but I can use the power of prediction and venture a guess or two. I'd like to see Bendtner get a full 90 minutes, and Theo to get a run-out too. In light of Bendtner requesting more playing time in the press recently, it only makes sense to hand him a place in the starting eleven and see if he can back up his words with goals. Don't be surprised to see Bendtner lineup alongside Chamakh this evening, or replace the Moroccan altogether. In midfield, Wilshere, Denilson and Song would be more than acceptable for this type of game, but Nasri could slot back into midfield if Wenger wants a bit more creativity in the middle of the park.
I'd really like to be in the pub tonight to watch the game, but I'm still unsure if I will. Other commitments and the like, you know how it is. All I want to see, hear, and know is that Arsenal play to their best and just get the job done. No more mental lapses, no more gifting teams easy goals. Just win. Check out Arseblog's match preview for a more in-depth look ahead of tonight's clash; he doesn't bullshit anyone.
Thanks for reading.