Sunday, September 30, 2007

Steaua Bucharest vs. Arsenal: Champions League Match Preview

Match Review

This Tuesday Premier League table-toppers Arsenal face off with Romania's second place team Steaua Bucharest. Arsene Wenger's young guns will go into the match full of confidence, riding a streak of 8 straight wins in all competitions.

The Gunners are first in Group H, following a convincing 3-0 victory over Spanish side Sevilla. Steaua are on the other side of the table, having lost their opening match to Slavia Prague 0-1. They will face a tough challenge against the talented Gunners, who have yet to lose a game this season.

Arsenal are heavy favorites to win both Tuesday's match against Steaua and Champions League Group H. However, their task will be made a bit more difficult due to the absence of Alex Hleb, who was injured in the 1-0 win over West Ham yesterday. Other players who will miss the match are William Gallas, Tomas Rosicky, and Jens Lehmann, although all are set to come back some time soon, after their long-term injuries.

Edit: Hleb, Adebayor, Flamini and Diaby are all doubts for the Steaua game

Although Arsenal are very likely to win this match, Arsene Wenger is still likely to play some of his big names on Tuesday.

The Arsenal backline will probably consist of Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, and Gael Clichy; with Manuel Almunia between the sticks. The talented Arsenal midfield will most likely feature Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby, and Emmanuel Eboue; although the recently out-of-favor Gilberto may also see some action. Theo Walcott, who was rested against West Ham, may also feature on the left-wing.

Up front, Wenger may choose to play Eduardo da Silva rather than risk Emmanuel Adebayor, although if Adebayor is fit, he will probably start alongside Robin van Persie in a strong Arsenal attack.

The attack, which has scored 16 goals in 7 Premiership games this season, will likely be Arsenal's source of inspiration, with goals coming from midfield as well. Fabregas will be the mastermind behind all of Arsenal's moves as usual, supplying pinpoint passes to the attack, and maybe even adding to his impressive haul of 6 goals this season.

Steaua on the other hand will get most of their inspiration from Nicolae Dica, the impressive Romanian attacking midfielder who has scored 48 goals in 101 league games for Steaua Bucharest. He will have a hard time scoring against Arsenal's defense which has only let in 2 goals since Jens Lehmann's injury.

I expect that Arsenal will dominate the game, although wastefulness may keep the scoreline lower than it could be. I predict a 2-0 win which will keep Arsenal at the top of Group H, extending our winning streak to 9 games.