Arsene Wenger will resist the temptation to make wholesale changes to his lineup on Tuesday night, despite taking a 3-0 lead into the second leg of their Champions League playoff with Fenerbahce. The sides’ first contest last week was a most welcome comfortable victory for Arsenal that eased the dark clouds around the club following an opening Premier League defeat to Aston Villa. That win in Istanbul was followed up by an almost-equally relaxed win over Fulham at the weekend. And it seems that Wenger is eager to keep that run going.
"It will be stability in the team," he said, according to Arsenal’s official website. "Maybe one or two who are a bit injured [will be rested], but 95 per cent of the team who played at Fulham will play [on Tuesday] night.”
“It will show consistency and, therefore, I'm already focused today to go into this game with full commitment. For me, top-level sport is just about consistency.”
Wenger’s insistence on selecting a strong team also reflects the disastrous consequences should the unthinkable happen and Fenerbahce overturn their deficit at the Emirates. Arsenal had an outstanding finish to last season to claim fourth spot in the Premier League and it would be a crushing blow to miss out on a 16th straight season in the Champions League group stage.
“It says it all [that I won't rest players],” Wenger added. “It shows how important it is to us. It's of course a very, very, very important tie for us. We want to be in the group stage the next day, and that demands attitude and commitment and desire to play the game with full power, like we love to do.”
Wenger has confirmed that Jack Wilshere will play against Fenerbahce after having been rested for Saturday’s 3-1 win over Fulham. Laurent Koscielny is also available once more having been forced off with a nasty gash to the face in the first leg.
Arsenal could still, of course, progress even with an amazing defeat on Tuesday. Fenerbahce are set to have their appeal over a ban for match-fixing heard on Wednesday. Ersun Yanal’s side got their first league win of the season at the weekend, with a 1-0 victory over Eskisehirspor. Gokhan Gonul is set to start at right-back after making his return from injury by coming on in the first leg. Both Joseph Yobo and Emre Belozoglu could be missing through injury.
D: Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs
M: Ramsey, Wilshere
Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski
D: Gonul, Korkmaz, Alves, Kadlec
M: Meireles, Sahin, Potuk
F: Kuyt, Emenike, Webo
Prediction: Arsenal did their job well in the first leg but it was hard to comprehend just how poor Fenerbahce were. Certainly their performance did not reflect that of a side that had reached the semifinals of the Europa League last season and had strengthened over the summer. It’s difficult to believe that Fenerbahce will be quite as bad on Tuesday, but the tie is now beyond them.
Aaron Ramsey has impressed in the past two games and with the absence of a defensive midfielder has taken on the extra responsibility. Arsenal should continue their solid run and record a comfortable victory to ensure their place in Thursday’s draw.
Arsenal 2-0 Fenerbahce
Where to watch: The Champions League playoff second leg will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.