There will be a proper pre-match preview tomorrow so I’ll keep it brief today. The big news of the day is that Cesc Fabregas misses the Champions League 2nd leg tie with Porto as a result of a hamstring injury which appears to be more serious than first hoped. It is a blow, no doubt, because you always want your biggest players available for games like these. Whilst we have Song available again (his ban applying to domestic matches only) I have to admit that I would have preferred any other player in the squad to be unavailable over Cesc.
However, the manager has already ruled out any opportunity for excuses:
“Ideally we wanted him to be there, but we want to qualify and the absence of Cesc is no excuse at all.
We have enough players and a strong enough squad to get round that and have enough chances to qualify.”
You have to agree with him. At the end of the day it is down to us to cope with these sorts of injuries. We have managed to keep our title hopes alive without the input of Robin van Persie and it is imperative that we don’t allow the loss of Cesc to interfere with our belief and desire in the Champions League.
There has never been a better time for players like Bendtner and Walcott to step up and be counted for. We are going to need big performences from them no doubt, and without Cesc you look towards other players such as Arshavin, Nasri and Diaby to fill the void left by the captain. Our defenders will of course be vital too. The forgettable performance from the first leg must not be replicated. We’ll need the whole team to be fully committed to the cause because it is going to be a difficult evening tomorrow. I know we are capable of winning but there is something about this tie that smells like PSV a few years ago.
When we drew Porto everyone was saying that it was the easiest tie out of all the English sides. On paper I would agree but I always felt that the away leg would be crucial and the result was bad at the end of the day. Will it be a case of the away goal saving us, or our calamity of a defensive performance proving ultimately to be the decisive factor?
As I have already said this tie gives me an uneasy feeling. We have beaten them comfortably everytime we’ve played them at home. The media enjoy reminding us of that as well as that they have never won on English soil. The typical outcome is that Porto win the tie and shove all that straight back at the media. I desperately hope this doesn’t happen but we’ll need to be on our game big time to make sure. The wasted chances on Saturday will not be a luxury afforded to us tomorrow.
On this point Arsene has backed Bendtner to bounce back from his inexplicable performance on Saturday:
“He missed some big chances on Saturday but that is needed for any young striker at some stage. He looks at why he missed the chances and gets it right in the next game. That is important for a young striker.
I think he is really improving at the moment. That was just an isolated game. In every competition you always have something to prove and show how good you are.
He has a good mental strength and, even if he was disappointed with the chances he missed, it will not diminish his desire and confidence to going to the next game.”
The one certain factor that must be borne in mind is we need to score tomorrow. Ideally as many goals as possible but if we fail to score we are out. I know it is stating the obvious but it goes back to my original point that we have to take our chances. If we do, we’ll win comfortably but if we don’t it is going to be another one of those nervy nights at the Emirates.