Preview: Arsenal vs. Fenerbahce, UEFA Champions League

Blog by: Gautam
Fenerbahce SK v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League Play-offs: First Leg

Location: Emirates Stadium, Ashburton Grove, London, England, United Kingdom

Kick-off: 27 August 2013, 1945 BST, 2045 CET, 28 August 2013, 0045 IST

Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo

With Arsenal putting one foot in the Champions League proper with a resounding (and somewhat unexpected) 3-0 walloping of Turkish giants Fenerbahce last week, they will be treating this game with caution as Arsene Wenger will not want an upset throwing a spanner in his long-term plans for the club.

The much-anticipated North London Derby is around the corner and a slip up here could spill over into a game that both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur regard as one of the most important in a Premier League season.

Fener, however, are not to be discounted. An early goal here could mean a nervy evening for the hosts and the Turks have several players with Premier League experience who they will look to to deliver the goods.

Form

Arsenal

Previous five fixtures: WWLWL

25 August 2013: 3-1 vs. Fulham (A), Barclays Premier League

21 August 2013: 3-0 vs. Fenerbahce SK (A), UEFA Champions League

17 August 2013: 1-3 vs. Aston Villa (H), Barclays Premier League

10 August 2013: 3-1 vs. Manchester City (N), Carlsberg International Football Tournament

04 August 2013, 1-2 vs. Galatasaray AS (H), Emirates Cup

Wenger will be hoping his team do not capitulate the way they did the last time a Turkish outfit visited the Emirates. Didier Drogba came back to haunt the Gunners when Galatasaray competed for the Emirates Cup, an integral part of the Gunners’ pre-season preparations.

But the loss that Aston Villa inflicted on the hosts has brought in them a steely determination that has seen them win both of their last two fixtures, both of them away from home and that should definitely give the Emirates faithful a morale boost when they occupy the stadium tonight.

That his team have three away goals mean Wenger is within touching distance of playing in the UEFA Champions League. Second-half goals from Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud meant there will be a slightly more relaxed atmosphere in London tonight.

Fenerbahce

Previous five fixtures: WLLWD

24 August 2013: 1-0 vs. Eskisehirspor (H), Turkish Super Lig

21 August 2013: 0-3 vs. Arsenal (H), UEFA Champions League

17 August 2013: 2-3 vs. Konyaspor (A), Turkish Super Lig

06 August 2013: 3-1 vs. Red Bull Salzburg (H), UEFA Champions League

31 August 2013: 1-1 vs. Red Bull Salzburg (A), UEFA Champions League

Fenerbahce’s lack of composure in front of goal has been worrying. The likes of Pierre Webo and the experienced Dirk Kuyt were presented with a plethora of chances at the Sukru Sacaroglu stadium when the Gunners came calling was worrying.

That they have won only two of their last five games also means they need to tighten up at the back, especially in the closing stages of games. They were leading 2-0 against Konyaspor with 14 minutes to spare before their opponents scored three to steal the game away from them.

Manager Ersun Yanal did say that a goal against the Gunners at home was of prime importance and having failed to do that, will look to throw everything at them in London if they are to test Arsenal and book a place (however unlikely) in the Champions League.

But even if Fenerbahce do win this game, there is no guarantee of them staying in the competition. They are being investigated for charges of match fixing by UEFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport and should they be found guilty of the same, will be eliminated from European competition,  with fellow Turkish side Trabzonspor waiting to take their place if the Yellow Canaries are found guilty.

Team News

Arsenal

Laurent Koscielny was suspended against Fulham, having picked up a red card against Aston Villa and was on the receiving end of a headful of studs in Turkey, courtesy Pierre Webo, but is back for this game and is expected to start this game.

With the North London Derby around the corner and Champions League football nearly in the bag, Wenger will look to rest a few players.

Squad (from): Wojciech Szczesny, Per Mertesacker, Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski, Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, Lukasz Fabianski, Yaya Sanogo, Carl Jenkinson, Emmanuel Frimpong, Kieran Gibbs, Ryo Miyaichi, Damian Martinez

Probable Starting XI: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski, Walcott, Giroud

Fenerbahce

Gokhan Gonul returned from injury against the Gunners and the Turkey right-back will be widely expected to start this game, as will all of the team’s Turkish contingent. New signing Emmanuel Emenike is available and could start either in place of or alongside Pierre Webo.

Squad (from): Volkan Demirel, Mert Günok, Murat Hocaoğlu, Erten Ersu, Egemen Korkmaz, Hasan Ali Kaldırım, Bekir İrtegün, Joseph Yobo, Berkaycan Değirmencioğlu, Bruno Alves, Michal Kadlec, Metincan Cici, Egemen Zengin, Gökhan Gönül, Mehmet Topal, Miroslav Stoch, Raul Meireles, Cristian, Emre Belözoğlu, Miloš Krasić, Caner Erkin, Moussa Sow, Pierre Webó, Dirk Kuyt, Emmanuel Emenike, Aziz Ceylan

Probable Starting XI: Demirel, Gonul, Zan, Alves, Kaldirim, Topal, Meireles, Emre, Kuyt, Webo, Emenike

Prediction

Clubs come to Arsenal to play Champions League football and this is all that separates the arrival of new transfers to London. Expect a result similar to the one in Turkey

Arsenal 2-0 Fenerbahce

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