Let the Battle of Britain Begin
Well, here it is some mere 72 hours since the likes of Denilson, Vermaelen, Gallas, Fabregas and Eduardo thourougly wiped the Goodison park pitch with the likes of the David Moyes Toffees. The onslaught that was hoped for but not expected has caused some of the prognosticators to rethink where Arsenal may wind up in the EPL standings. But let’s face it lads, that is all old news.
Tuesday 18 August 2009, sees Arsene Wenger’s boys start the long and arduous journey for UEFA Champion’s League Glory. Win both legs and move on. Lose and it’s EUROPA Cup for us. Pretty simple. The opponent for this match is no pushover. 42 time SPL winner Celtic are bouyed after one of their first away wins in Europe against Dynamo Kiev.
The Hoops are also coming off a very comfortable 3-1 win over SPL rivals Aberdeen. The now move onto the daunting task of carrying that success over to this week’s match against our Arsenal. And while they are likley to be regarded as underdogs for both legs, its no doubt that Mowbray’s boys can give us fits if the play us right.
The squad has firepower and a little European history behind them beating both Man U and Milan at Celtic park in recent memory. Their wingers are as skillful as any in the EPL and Arsene believes that this Celtic squad are good enough to compete at the upper level of the EPL. Additionally, the first leg is at Celtic Park where the Hoops have proved to be very hard to beat. Throw in what is sure to be an electric atmosphere and the work for Arsenal is sure to be hard.
But this is nothing new to Arsenal. Last season saw the Gunner play in the pit that is Roma. Everyone knows the inherent problems playing in Rome but the crowds in Italy are in my opinion more riotous than any EPL or SPL club and if Arsenal can go in there and win on Penalties than I do not think the 60,000 screaming Scots are going to matter much to our lads.
Additionally, there is talk that the Gunners may overlook this Celtic squad. Whilst Arsenal in recent years have shown a propensity for ligthening up against lesser EPL squads, their ability to be cream of the European class is uncanny. Arsene has built his squads recently to play in Europe being the only silverware he has not collected.
However Arsenal are after to a cracking start after crushing Everton. Surely, Celtic fans were jubilant after their easy win only to be less so after hearing of their next opponents win down south of Hadrean’s wall.
This is not going to be a match like Arsenal are used to when facing the likes of Twente. Celtic do pose a real threat and as Almnunia has said it will be real disappointment should Arsenal fail to go through.
Celtic should be without Glenn Loovens and Stephen MacManus, while Shaun Maloney and defender Garry Caldwell return fit. Their expected starting XI are: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, Loovens, O’Dea, N’Guemo, Donati, McGeady, McDonald, Fortune, Maloney.
For Arsenal, the usual suspects are still out, Rosicky, Nasri, and Walcott. Diaby is back and should feature. There is some back and forth as to whether or not Fabregas is fit to play with one press outlet reporting he is 50-50 for the match. Should he play the starting XI likely are: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Denilson, Arshavin, Bendtner, Van Persie.
Who to Watch:
Celtic: Aiden McCready – bagged a brace this past weekend.
Arsenal: Andrei Arshavin – he was cup tied last season. This year no such luck for his opponents. Look for him to feature well on Europe’s biggest stage.
Prediction: Weather the first 10 -15 minutes. Play the game like this past weekend and control the ball and we should be in for a 2-1 win. However, I do think that this game will be a bit of struggle and I think it will be a 1-1 tie going into next week’s match at the Emirates where Arsenal will run rampant over the Hoops.
The game is being broadcast at 5:00PM EST on FSC. Kickoff is set for 1945 BST.