Feeling ever so slightly better after some mystery illness yesterday. To those that asked, no – no drink spiking. I’m sure that’s disappointed so many people.
With only a day of daylight in between the Chelsea and Blackburn matches, Arsene Wenger is set to rotate his squad tres blender for the Carling Cup match tonight. Despite the fact we may see a comprehensive overhaul from the team that won against Chelsea, Wenger still has high expectations for the side that takes to Ewood Park. Wenger says:
“My expectation is to qualify and go into the semi-finals, because we want to come back as well as we did last year and as well it is a good opportunity for my squad to show how strong the players who didn’t play against Chelsea are.
I believe in them, and it is good (for the second string) to show me ‘we knock at the door and we want to play in the first team.’”
Apart from Bendtner and possibly Gilberto, the team should not have any players that partook in the last match, for the simple reason they need to be fresh for the North London Derby on Saturday. Wenger’s faith in his team (spanning from the relatively experienced Senderos and Hoyte to the expectant Eduardo) and the squad’s recent history in the tournament mean that whoever plays, they carry the Arsenal badge with them. Blackburn it may be – and one in poor form, mind you – but a win is not unreasonable thing to expect.
Moving on to reflections on the victory over Chelsea, and William Gallas has played down notions of ‘revenge’ against his former club, saying that all the fallout from his transfer last season is a thing of the past. The Captain (oh hail be to him) says:
“It was not easy for me playing against my former team-mates. You are not the same because I spent six years there and it was a little bit strange for me but it was very important for me to try to play well.
For me the most important thing was my players and the team. Before I went on the pitch I said to myself, ‘I have to play well’. That’s it. It’s not revenge for me. For me, it is the past. We are still on top and want to put pressure on Manchester United. We want to win something this year and will not give up.”
The captaincy really has transformed him as an Arsenal player – I for one cannot praise the man enough at the moment.
One person who has piped up this morning is Blackburn manager Mark Hughes, who has whinged about the fact big clubs are let off easy for their ‘red card tackles’ ‘awarded’ as yellow. Of course, the man completely ignores the thuggery behind his own squad – as gifted as players like Bentley, Santa Cruz and McCarthy may be – and the fact that Arsenal versus Chelsea happens to be a derby game between two closely placed teams with so much more to fight for than Blackburn could ever dream of.
The red card that Arsenal are having to deal with at the moment is the possibility of Wenger having his touchline ban lengthened in the Champions League, after Frank Rjikaard had his extended after his sending off against Lyon (one which he went straight to the stands as well). UEFA will probably have a field day over revolutionary-scumbag Wenger – which does not auger well for our campaign. Don’t forget the draw for the knockout round is this Friday, 11am London time.
And with that, we head straight to the preview for tonight’s match against Blackburn at Ewood Park. It’s the Carling Cup Quarter Final, which obviously means there’s a bit at stake for a difficult away game.
Blackburn certainly are not in the best of league form, having been hammered by Wigan (…oops) 5-3 on Saturday. Of course, this being a cup fixture in their own backyard does mean that the clichés can be pulled out, with form cast aside in predicting any results. It should be put at pains to emphasize that all three goals on Blackburn’s scoresheet against Wigan were scored by Roque Santa Cruz – a consistent striker of gifted qualities, and an astute purchase from Rovers’ point of view.
The team I’ve predicted goes by what Wenger has given away thus far, with Bendtner, Hoyte, Traore and Fabianski noted starters. We should be seeing the return of Song and Senderos, with Denilson, Eduardo, Walcott and Diaby slotting in their respective positions.
Will Diarra play after his not-so-friendly comments? I’m plumping for one of him or Gilberto to start, with the other replacing the starter at some point. Gilberto has already exerted himself not two days ago, but his case will be helped by Diarra’s less than choicy words.
Can Arsenal win? It may go down to extra time, but Arsenal can take advantage of Blackburn’s poor form, certainly. Should Diaby play on the left wing, it will help Eduardo no end to have a strong presence on that flank – and we will all be hoping for a strong showing from the new signing. Bendtner, as always, will be one to keep the eye on.
Here’s hoping for a semi-final birth – it will be interesting to see what hangover remains after Saturday’s match. Whether I refer to the team or myself, I leave you to guess…