Sunday, December 9, 2007

Arsenal vs. Steaua Bucharest: Match Preview

Steaua Bucharest travel to London this Wednesday as English giants Arsenal try to regain their winning form on home soil.

The Gunners lost their first match of the season in their last Champions League match away to Sevilla. Soon after, the squad lost their first Premier League game in a shock 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough.

While Arsenal have already qualified for the Champions League knockout stages, Arsene Wenger will be looking for a win to boost his side's confidence ahead of a tough Premier League clash against Chelsea.

The North London club could also go first in the group if they defeat Steaua and Sevilla falter in Prague.

Steaua have nothing to play for, as they are four points adrift of third-placed Slavia Prague, meaning that the Romanian team will be knocked out of European competition no matter Wednesday's results.

Arsene Wenger's young side will still have a tough time defeating Steaua though, especially considering the large number of injuries.

Arsenal will still be missing Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, although Abou Diaby and Robin van Persie will be in the squad for the first time in quite a while.

This leaves Arsene Wenger without too much choice, although he would likely want to change his squad from the one that lost at Middlesbrough.

Jens Lehmann is set to start his first game in goal for Arsenal since his high profile error at Blackburn on August 19.

Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, and Gael Clichy are the manager's undisputed first-choice back four. However, Justin Hoyte, Armand Traore, and maybe even Philippe Senderos could see some action as Wenger rest's his top players ahead of a congested fixture list.

In the midfield, Tomas Rosicky was the only player who had a decent game against Middlesbrough on Sunday, and he is likely to stay in the squad as the team's driving creative force.

The other positions are more difficult to place, but I would like to see Lassana Diarra and Neves Denilson alongside Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Eboue in a five man midfield.

If Abou Diaby is fully fit for the game, he would likely start in a more creative position instead of Denilson. However, he is more likely to come off of the bench like Robin van Persie, as he is unlikely to be match-fit.

This would leave space for Emmanuel Adebayor or Nicklas Bendtner to play alone up front, depending on how much Arsene Wenger is willing to risk.

Robin van Persie is going to be in the squad for the Steaua game, but he is unlikely to start, probably coming off the bench towards the end of the match.

Arsenal have already beaten Steaua Bucharest at home and I would be surprised (and disappointed) if we were to lose a home game against such relatively weak opponents.

I predict a 2-0 win for Arsenal, giving the team at least a small amount of momentum before the Chelsea challenge.