Good Morning/Day/Afternoon/Evening/Night to you wherever you are in the world.
The small town of Villarreal, Spain comes alive later when Arsene Wenger and his lads take on their local squad in El Madrigal. From what I’ve read Villarreal’s population’s so small that they could fill the Emirates Stadium and still have about 11,000 or so empty seats left over. Now for a town this small to have a team doing this well in the Champions League it means they shouldn’t be underestimated. Well surely the Arsenal players wouldn’t exactly want to do that as the last time both teams met we went through over them 1-0 on aggregate thanks to Kolo Toure’s tap in at Highbury and Juan Riquelme’s penalty miss at El Madrigal.
Anyway, unto the team news:
The team news consists of good news and bad news. I think we’ll start with the bad news first. Eduardo’s ruled out with a groin injury, Diaby’s out with a thigh injury and Van Persie’s still out with a groin injury which he picked up over the international break against Scotland.
The good news however is that Samir Nasri’s virus is gone and he’s been cleared fit to play and the same goes for Theo Walcott who was seen icing his knee after being subbed against Man City at the weekend.
Being an away European night and a two legged affair you’d expect Wenger to be a little more cautious and go with a more defensive formation. My prediction is that he’ll go with the formation of
…as he did last Saturday (of course with Nasri coming in for the cup tied Arshavin).
Villarreal have a couple of ex Gunners among their ranks. Namely Pascal Cygan and Super Rob Pires. If you can remember the performances Pascal Cygan put in for us in the past, barring that bizarre night at Highbury when he got a brace against Fulham, you’d certainly hope he replicates those performances tonight. As for Pires, you’d definitely not want him to put in a performance tonight like he did for us throughout his 6 years at the club.
Speaking ahead of the game Pires has admitted that he’s not angry at Wenger for subbing him in the Champions League Final against Barcelona in 2006.
“The final in Paris was the worst moment of my career and two days afterwards I went to Arsène Wenger to speak about two things,” said Pires on Monday night.
“The first thing was that I would leave and join Villarreal. The second thing was that I wanted to know why he took me off in the Final.
“He said that with me the team would have played more defensively.
“I don’t feel angry with Arsène Wenger at all and when I see him I will thank him.
“But I thought I would end my career there. In the Final in Barcelona you could see that Wenger had lost his confidence in me. So I left to join Villarreal.
“I have been in contact with Arsène Wenger for the past three years. He is a manager I won’t be able to forget because I learnt so much from him. He made me play and win trophies at a very high level. That is important for a club and a player.”
It takes a man with tremendous character and class to speak so highly of his former manager after the way his career at the club ended. It just goes to show why Villarreal look to him for experience and leadership and why he’s such a vital member of their team, even at the age of 35.
Turning our attention back on the match later and we definitely do not want to leave Spain with a scoreless draw is it means Villarreal will come to the Emirates looking to put pressure on us by scoring early. A scoring draw would be a good result for us but a win with a clean sheet for Almunia would be even better. For tonight’s match I’m predicting a 1-0 win to the Arsenal though – maybe with Theo Walcott or Emmanuel Adebayor scoring.
If you can’t be in El Madrigal for tonight’s game or can’t be in front of a tv or a radio I’ll be providing live commentary. So feel free to join us at our forums at www.arsenalaction.com
Here’s to a win in Spain tonight! Come on you mighty Gunners!