By 1970’s Gooner
This game comes after two draining clashes against Liverpool and Manchester United and since a draw will be enough to see Arsenal through to the knock-out stages it has allowed Wenger the luxury to shuffle his pack.
Alexander Hleb and Cesc Fabregas are both rested after making 29 starts between them so far this season, while Kolo Toure (calf) and Tomas Rosicky (groin) are carrying minor knocks.
However Arsenal’s squad is littered with experienced internationals and gifted youngsters as well so it’s not really that big a risk to field a version of the B team.
In fact Wenger has blooded the youngsters so early in their career and in competitive matches that though young, immature and inexperienced they are not.
And they have shown that when they are complimented by a few seasoned campaigners such as Gilberto and Gallas they are capable of producing top class performances.
In a recent article after the victory in the Carling Cup tie at Sheffield United I reiterated the idea of teams like Arsenal being allowed to field “B” teams in the championship as they do in Spain. Arsenal’s B team was so obviously a class above the championship side.
Wenger has, in a way, the opportunity to field his Arsenal B team for the rest of the games left in this relatively easy group.
His biggest decision is who to field between the posts. Almunia needs to start in order to recover some confidence and ease his nerves.
Lehmann also needs a start if anything to be match fit and ready to step in the first team if Almunia’s two “lives” are exhausted. My hunch: Lehmann is a goner in the transfer window.
For the right back position Hoyte deserves a start and for left back I would rest Clichy and give Traore his first Champion’s League game. Gallas and Song will play in central defence.
I do not trust Song in defence. Having watched him play for Charlton in midfield last season I was impressed. I think he will be a very good central midfielder rather than central defender.
Denilson and Gilberto will be a strong pairing in midfield flanked by Diaby on the left and Walcott on the right. Eduardo and Bendtner will resume their productive partnership up front.
It sounds pretty strong to me.
For Slavia Prague ex Liverpool midfielder Vladimir Smicer is available, but Ladislav Volesak is suspended. Meanwhile, second-choice goalkeeper Michal Vorel is likely to make his Champions League debut in place of Czech international Martin Vaniak.
Slavia’s best hope is to qualify for third place and enter the UEFA competition. I wouldn’t expect them to play open and attacking football but they will be looking to get something out of this game.
Prediction: Arsenal’s B team find it hard to settle at the beginning but once in their stride can outclass Slavia. 0-1