Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sevilla vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Update: William Gallas, Gael Clichy, and Emmanuel Adebayor did not travel to Spain with the Arsenal squad.

Premier League leaders Arsenal travel to Spain this Tuesday to face off against struggling Sevilla. The two teams lead Champions League Group H after four games, with Arsenal already qualified on ten points and Sevilla one point behind. Slavia Prague and Steaua Bucharest close up the group with four and zero points respectively.

With Arsenal already qualified and Sevilla virtually assured of qualification this game may determine which of the two clubs finishes first in the group.

Arsenal will be confident going into the match, following a fine run of form which has seen the Gunners unbeaten this season. Arsene Wenger's squad drew Slavia Prague 0-0 in their last Champions League match, but followed up with wins against Reading and Wigan before and after the international break. The Gunners know they can beat Sevilla (the home game against Sevilla was a 3-0 win) and will be looking to do it again in Spain.

Sevilla will not be nearly as confident, as their form in the Spanish Primera Liga has been poor this season. The Spanish giants were defeated by Mallorca this weekend, and their two games before that were a draw at minnows Denia and and a loss at Villareal.

Supporters of the Spanish club will take some solace in the injury plague at Arsenal though.

Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, Robin van Persie, and Abou Diaby will all miss the match due to injury. Arsene Wenger is also unwilling to risk some of his key players, with Gael Clichy, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor not making the trip to Spain since Arsenal have already qualified..

Arsenal's back line will be somewhat changed, with Bacary Sagna and Kolo Toure the only regular defensive starters still in the squad. Philippe Senderos will likely start alongside Toure in central defense, with talented youngster Armand Traore filling in for Clichy at left-back.

A depleted midfield lineup will probably see the return of Gilberto Silva, after missing many games due to the incredible form of Mathieu Flamini. Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Eboue will probably prowl the wings, while Cesc Fabregas will almost certainly start at the heart of the midfield.

Of course, Theo Walcott could also be played over Eboue, with Rosicky switching to the right.

Up front, Emmanuel Adebayor and strike partner Robin van Persie will both be missing. Eduardo is likely to start up front, alongside either Walcott or Nicklas Bendtner.

I feel that Bendtner may be given a rare start after making a major impact upon coming in against Wigan, especially considering that Walcott picked up a minor knock against Wigan.

While I would have been afraid to face Sevilla with a depleted squad last season, the Spanish side have stuttered recently, and with Dani Alves' loss of form, I feel we should once again be able to win.

I predict a 2-1 victory for Arsenal, placing the Gunners firmly at the top of group H.