Braga Preview: Young And Proud – The Fightback Starts Now
Arsenal relieve the domestic pressure with a trip to Braga for this evening’s Champions League encounter. Having lost in Donetsk, a win is vital this evening in the pursuit of top place in the group and, relatively speaking, an easier encounter in the first knockout phase.
History is against the squad; No Arsenal side has won in this part of the Iberian peninsula, draws in Lisbon against Sporting and Benfica, kept company by a point in Oporto in 2006. Curiously enough, Arsenal’s only goalscorers in Portugal have been Kevin and Sol Campbell, both in the 18th minute of their respective games. Braga meanwhile have lost three times against English sides on their own turf – Tottenham twice and West Bromwich Albion in 1978. We know how they feel.
Arsene has made three changes to the squad, Gael Clichy’s back injury is to be rested whilst Robin van Persie is not making the trip to ensure that his fitness is worked on rather than his MarioKart tally whilst sitting on the bench wondering if he will get some match time. Andrey Arshavin is just being rested full stop, recent exertions apparently warranting this. With Cesc facing a fitness test, rumours have surfaced that Marouane Chamakh will be on the bench, the starting line-up will have a Carling Cup feel about it. Given their impressive results, perhaps that is no bad thing.
Arsene has pondered whether or not there will have been a negative psychological impact following on the from the Tottenham debacle. I hope there has for from the hurt must rise a positive response. With the visit to Villa Park at the weekend proving to be a tough test in the past, a good performance and win tonight is essential to restore confidence and battered pride.
Losing in Donetsk was not particularly surprising since Arsenal has never travelled to the far eastern reaches of Europe and played well. It was however the exception with four wins out of five on their travels recently. This time though Braga are not a particularly strong side in the league this season, perhaps some sort of hangover from their Champions League exertions.
With the Champions League record of scoring 20 goals in the group phase firmly in their sights, Arsenal must however be wary that Braga have lost only twice in all competitions in the Estadio Municipal de Braga with Beira-Mar and Shaktar the only teams to take anything from their visits. Indeed, Shaktar’s treble is so far the only time in European competition that they have been breached defensively at home with Celtic, Partizan and Sevilla unable to do so.
The team I would expect Wenger to put out tonight is:
Fabianski; Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs; Rosicky, Song, Denilson; Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri
Apparently, succession planning is the vogue at the moment, a rather pointless exercise since the manager is not likely to being going anywhere in the next few seasons. It is incredible to believe that in the past few days, he has become a pariah having been praised as recently as well, the victory over Everton. The Now-Generation certainly has embraced Viv Nicholson’s ethos for success. Wenger is not above criticism, neither should he be but the whole “who should replace him” argument is rather pointless as it presumes a vacancy arising.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.