Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shakhtar Donetsk vs Arsenal: An Early Preview

Another victory for the Gunners and we would wrap up another Champions League knockout spot. If that happens it will be the Gunners 11th consecutive season in the knockout stage. Not bad for a team that has been fielding a team with an average age of 25 and below for the past couple of years.

This match will probably not be another stroll in the park like the 5-1 drubbing we gave the Ukrainians two weeks ago at the Emirates. The opposition will be looking for revenge at their own patch and are in good spirits coming into this match. Shakhtar are currently top of the domestic league and just beat third place Dnipro 1-0 over the weekend. The defeat at the Emirates is and still remains the only time Shakhtar has been defeated this season. In their eight league matches at home this season, the team has only conceded 1 goal. This match will be a good test for the Arsenal goal machine which has already set the new record for goals scored after three Champions League matches with 14 goals.

Arsenal are also coming into this match in good confidence having stretch their unbeaten streak to 5 matches in all competitions with clean sheets in the last three. Fabianski is starting to repay Arsene Wenger’s faith in him with confident displays since taking over from Almunia in goal. The defence also looks stronger with the return of Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman was immense in the match against West Ham and hardly put a foot wrong in that match.

Arsene might not want to risk Cesc giving his hamstring injury suffered at the weekend although knowing our skipper, he would probably want to play. However, the squad is deep enough to make do without Cesc and still not looking too bad. We would probably see the return of Jack Wilshere in the starting line-up following his three match ban. The young lad was highly impressive in the reverse fixture at the Emirates and should be a handful for the opposition again.

Up front, I expected Bendtner to be given his chance to start as Arsene needs to manage Chamakh’s appearances before he breaks down as well, given our injury curse. Chamakh has been involved in 95% of the matches we played so it would good to give him a rest. Moreover, the big Dane has not done too badly since returning from injury scoring at Manchester City when he came on as a substitute and Newcastle in the Carling Cup.

All in all, the most important thing about this match is that the Gunner returns home without any further injuries to the players. Three points and a place in the knockout stages would be a major bonus, though.

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