That…wasn’t great. Villa are a decent side, and they played well, but considering the consequences of losing were going second in the league when we were five points clear a week ago, there was a worrying lack of urgency. The players didn’t look like they didn’t care or anything like that, but in a game we had to win, it took until the 94th minute to create a decent chance in the second half, to nick an equaliser we didn’t really deserve. I guess it shows how fine the margins are, you’re five points clear one week, two defensive mistakes and you’re clinging on to top spot by a thread. Anyway, on to the Champions League, and perhaps the biggest game of our season so far. After the couple of weeks we’ve had, losing 4-0 at Old Trafford, losing a five point lead at the top of the table, and losing one of our first choice strikers to a broken leg, to go out of the Champions League on top of that would probably finish us off mentally. This is gunna take a hell of a performance.
Before we took on Madrid in the San Siro in 2006, we had lost five of our last seven games, including getting knocked out of both domestic cups, and we also lost the game after that Champions League tie. Form has little to do with these occasions, it’s all about doing it on the night. Whether we have the players to do it, I guess we’ll find out. Wenger thought we were suffering from a "hangover" from last weekend. Well we better find a cure quickly, we’ve only got two days to recover. A win in Milan would be a great way to get our confidence back on track ahead of the run in in the league. It wouldn’t be catastrophic if we lost, I doubt we have a squad capable of challenging for both the league and the Champions League, and getting knocked out would alleviate the fixture congestion around the time when we play Liverpool and United in the same week, but we can’t really think like that. This competition is still the holy grail for Arsene, and a victory in Milan would be a fantastic moment for this young side.
Van Persie returns to the squad for this game, most likely starting on the bench. He won’t be started in a game of this importance after going without match practice for however many months. Eboue will be added to the squad, but that’s the only likely addition. Djourou is back in full training but won’t return to the squad, I don’t think. I would suggest he’ll be on the bench on Sunday. Don’t really know about Kolo, seems like one of those injuries where he might unexpectedly reappear, but, again, I’d say Sunday. Goodness knows what Lewin has done with Rosicky this time. I don’t see two days being enough time to miraculously get any of the injured players fit for the biggest game of the season so far.
I’m sensing a 4-5-1, a favourite of Wenger away in Europe in recent years. It worked when we got to the final in 2006, maybe it’ll work again. I don’t really know who he’ll go with though. It could be Hleb supporting Adebayor, with two of Eboue, Diaby and Walcott on the flanks, but that’s definitely not a strong enough side team to get a result in Milan. But then we don’t really have many options. The way Eboue and Diaby played the last two times I’ve seen them, I don’t want either of them in the squad (although Diaby has the excuse of lack of match fitness), but then that would mean Bendtner up front, which I don’t see happening.
Subs: Lehmann, Hoyte, Gilberto, Denilson, Walcott, Bendtner, van Persie.
Seedorf is expected to miss the game through injury. Other than that I think they’re pretty much fully fit.