Arsenal

Talisman Fit For Crunch

The worrying prospect of watching Lionel Messi take on Sol Campbell is likely to be averted tonight, with the news that William Gallas is set to be fit.

Gallas has missed the last 8 Arsenal matches owing to a calf injury, but the 32-year-old has been back in training for three days, and is likely to start the match against Barcelona. Wenger told Arsenal.com:

“Gallas is in the squad.

“I have not picked the team yet but he has a chance.

“He looks physically quite good. He has had three days training and I will now have to have a chat with him and then decide.

“Sol Campbell has played many games recently and a little breather would be welcome.”

I think a little breather for Sol would be a welcome relief for Arsenal fans also. Whilst Campbell has performed admirably since signing for the Gunners in January, how he’d fair against Messi and company is debatable. However, with Gallas and Vermaelen fit, Arsenal will have half a chance of keeping a clean sheet. The pair have formed an excellent partnership for Arsenal this season, conceding just 34 goals in 32 games, despite the team’s cavalier approach to the game.

A worry for Arsenal this evening however is that this term, when coming up against top quality opposition, Arsenal have come up short. Their defensive display in matches against Manchester United and Chelsea was unsatisfactory, with Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney simply grinding the Arsenal defence into submission. Conversely, the Barcelona forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic actually has a poor record against Arsenal, and Gunners will hope he continues this run tonight. The €66 million striker has always struggled against English clubs in the Champions League, and was on the losing side against Arsenal at Highbury in 2006, with Arsenal claiming a 2-0 victory. The Swede, who joined the Catalan club in June 2009, told BBC Sport:

“I think I haven’t performed my best in games against English teams”.

“But the last time was with Inter against Manchester United and it is harder playing for Italian teams against English teams because Italian teams are more concerned with not conceding.”

This evening, there is little doubt that Barcelona will want an away goal, and will look to play their own game and attack Arsenal from the outset. Good news for the Gunners comes in the form of an injury to Andres Iniesta, whilst Xavi Hernandez remains a doubt. However, Wenger has confirmed that Arsenal talisman Cesc Fabrgas is only 40% likely to start, but will give the Spaniard until the warm-up before a decision is made. However, with Vermaelen available, with Gallas likely to start alongside him, and Cesc Fabregas having a fighting chance, Wenger could be able to field his strongest line-up for months this evening (with the exception of Robin Van Persie), and this should be a a cause for optimism. However, when it comes to the crunch, will Arsenal have what it takes? Some have argued Arsenal have never even been to the crunch…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufP1bXKBipg&feature=related

You can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mark0turner

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