Same opponent, different venue, hopefully we have the same outcome as we face Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League tomorrow but this time at their home. Our record in Ukraine hasn’t been good as we have yet to register a win there. Shakhtar are unbeaten at home this season with just one goal conceded, hopefully we can break the streak and score plenty, as they come into this match on the back of a win. As Wenger has said that we will see a different Shakhtar so it won’t be a walk in the park as happened the last time.
We ourselves are building up a nice streak of wins and clean sheets as we head into this match top of the group. It will be good if we can keep the streak intact.
In team news we have Fabregas not traveling to Ukraine due to some pain as Wenger is not taking chances with him. We have further three players who will be assessed if they are fir to travel. Alex Song due to calf, Denilson due to groin and Arshavin with some ‘unknown’ problem. Other than this we have Wilshere back and no one is returning from injury.
“He has a good chance to play on Sunday but tomorrow night is too risky. He has no real strain, just a bit of pain. I don’t know what it’s down to but we cannot take a gamble as he has had injuries before. There’s still a bit of reluctance to push it 100%. Alex Song has a problem with his calf which we will assess today, he has a chance not to travel. Arshavin has a problem and we might leave him at home, and Denilson has a groin problem. The one that is definitely out is Fabregas, the three others will be assessed later.”
To pick tomorrow’s team is a bit tricky as there are a few questions. Do we go all out for a win or a draw will suffice? Yes we will go all out as you always have to play for a win. Will Wenger put up a team similar to that against Newcastle in Carling Cup or like the one against Man City? I think it will be similar to the Carling Cup team as it will give more playing time to the players rested on the weekend or were on the bench. What do we want from this match? A win of course but will a draw be bad? It won’t be bad because despite a draw we would have done enough to top the group. Still a win would be great. A loss is what we have to avoid in any case and whatever team Wenger puts out it will have the quality to get the three points.
Keeping the above in view the starting XI would be: Szczesny, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Rosicky, Eastmond, Walcott, Bendtner, Vela.
I am going with Szczesny in goal as more playing time will only confirm his brilliance. Djourou shall come back at his position as he needs more matches to improve. Koscielny should partner him as he also needs to play more games. Sagna should be rested and Eboue to return in his place along with Clichy on the other flank. Later on in the game we can do the same as we did against Newcastle to give Clichy some rest i.e. Sagna on the right and Eboue on the left flank.
In the middle Wilshere shall return along with Rosicky as he didn’t feature on the weekend and Wilshere returns from suspension. The third person depends upon the fitness of Song and Denilson. One of them will start if they are fit. If both are not fit than I will go with Eastmnd if he is in the squad. Otherwise we might see Lansbury due to which Wilshere will play in a deeper role.
Upfront Walcott and Bendtner shall return along with Vela as he needs games to improve his confidence.
So is this team enough to get the three points? I believe yes but we would need to be effective, patient and clinical.
As you will remember in the match against them at our home, they were much disciplined at the back and were fluent in their movement. They did however sit back a lot and would only break on a counter. They opened up a bit after we took a couple of goals lead but still they weren’t ambitious enough as we easily finished them off.
At their home it will be different. They would certainly love to get the three points, who wouldn’t, but a draw will also be good for them. They will have their home support so they will give their best performance. They will keep it tight but also they would look to score goals. We would need to be wary of their counter attacks as they are pretty good at it. They will have the defeat in their minds as they will look to settle the score.
As for us, what we did with them at the Emirates, we would have to repeat that. We were on that day patient as we probed around for openings and harassed their defence a lot. Only then they committed a few mistakes that led to our goals and eventually they opened up and we scored more. Second we would need to be clinical in taking our chances as only then they will come out and play. An early goal or two would be great as the more we take time to score the more they will grow in confidence.
The most important thing however for us is that none of our players get injured. It is going to be a tight match for sure but I believe that we can come away with three points. I am not predicting any scores though another clean sheet will be good but I will take a win any time.
Keep the faith.