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Liverpool Pies

Is this the year Arsenal become Champions of Europe?

Arsenal embark on their tenth successive Champions League campaign as they entertain Sevilla at Emirates Stadium tonight.

Will this finally be the year the Gunners go all the way in Europe? Are we on our way to Moscow in May? Is this team and squad equipped to land the holy grail of the club game?

These are all questions which should be a little easier to answer come half-past nine this evening. Of course, one game, one performance is not usually enough to make bold statements about a team’s potential in a competition but this is no run-of-the-mill group stage fixture.

Sevilla are a very highly regarded outfit these days who pride themselves on the same type of pass-and-move theory which dictates our own style of play.

Led by the much sought-after Juande Ramos, the Spaniards boast several home-grown players including alleged one-time Arsenal target, Jesus Navas and are regarded by many experts as being this season’s dark horses to gallop away with the trophy.

Back-to-back UEFA Cups and a serious title challenge in La Liga last season has seen their stock soar and the tragic passing of another young starlet, Antonio Puerta, earlier in the campaign will no doubt have brought this close-nit unit still closer.

Even talismanic right-back Daniel Alves, reported to have come close to joining Chelsea this summer, has had a change of heart and decided to knuckle down and commit to Sevilla for at least another few months.

But that’s what a tragedy can do to people, to a team. Bring them closer, make them realize their priorities but above all, give them a real incentive to do as well as they can.

They are not just competing anymore. They are playing with the memory of a lost team-mate in the forefront of their minds and are determined to win in his memory.

As such, we need to ensure we are switched on from the first whistle tonight. Sevilla can kill a game inside the opening 20 minutes much like the Arsenal of Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires used to do with such regularity.

We must guard against that by imposing our own high-tempo game. They have indicated they will attempt to stop Cesc Fabregas from playing and if they manage that, they pretty much stop Arsenal playing.

I expect Cesc to rise above any midfield muscle Sevilla attempt to flex and still find the space to pick apart a rear-guard which may include on-loan Chelsea flop, Khalid Boularouz.

Le Boss has confirmed Big Phil Senderos is back in contention and I would have to agree with the ArsePies Ed on this one.

If Wenger rates Senderos’ abilities then we must trust him. I’ve always said he sees things in players way before the rest of the world can. So I’m quietly confident he’ll come good, eventually.

But whoever we play at the back tonight, I think it’s what we do at the other end of the pitch that will decide this one.

At this stage, Eduardo seems far better suited to the slower European game than the fast-paced Premier League so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Croatian star have a say of some sort in tonight’s result. Be it from the start or off the bench.


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Posted by Mo Khan on September 19, 2007 12:28 PM in
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