Uefa Champions League, First knock-out round, first leg
Venue: Emirates Stadium Date: Tuesday, 24 February
Arsenal will be without Andrey Arshavin for their last 16 Champions League first-leg tie against Roma on Tuesday.
The Russian is ineligible having played for Zenit St Petersburg in the competition, while strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Eduardo are injured.
Arsene Wenger is already without key players Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott. Abou Diaby should be fit after a thigh problem, while Niklas Bendtner is set to start alongside Robin van Persie.
With his potential firepower severely curtailed, Wenger is more concerned about conceding a vital away goal against a Roma side boasting the attacking threat of Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and former Gunner Julio Baptista.
“The weight of the away goal is massive,” he said. “It has become too important. When you draw 0-0 at home, the team you play away has absolutely to score, so they come at you.”
Roma qualified top of Group A ahead of Chelsea, whom they beat 3-1 at home at the Stadio Olimpico in November last year.
While Luciano Spalletti’s side are 16 points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan, Wenger believes Brazilian Denilson will have a key role to play in nullifying Roma’s strong midfield.
“They play with a congested midfield and with a lot of short passing on the ground. If you lose that battle, you will be second best,” said Wenger.
In the 2002-03 CL second group phase, Arsenal beat Roma 1-3 in Rome before drawing 1-1 at Highbury in a game in which Roma striker Francesco Totti was sent off after 22 minutes. The Gunners went on to finish third in the group behind Valencia and Ajax, AS Roma finished fourth.
Arsenal have hosted an Italian side on 12 occasions and lost just two of those encounters. Roma have won just one of their previous 15 away matches against English clubs. The Italians have suffered defeat on their last five trips to England, failing to score in their last three, and have been eliminated from the Champions League by an English club in the past two seasons, both times by Manchester United.
Making their 11th successive appearance in the CL main competition. Their best result was reaching the final in 2006 when they lost to Barcelona.
Unbeaten in 22 CL home matches. The streak started in April 2004 after a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Chelsea.
Finished second in Group G behind FC Porto and kept a clean sheet in their last three CL home fixtures.
This marks Arsenal’s 200th match in all European Cup competitions combined. Of the previous 199, the Gunners won 97, drew 52 and lost 50 times.
In their sixth season of Champions League football, their best result is a quarter-final berth which they achieved in the past two seasons.
Finished top of Group A, with a club record three match winning streak in the Champions League. Their last defeat was at Chelsea (1-0) on 22 October 2008.
This year’s final will be played on AS Roma’s home turf, Stadio Olimpico. When Roma went all the way in the European Champions Cup in 1983-84, they lost the final in Stadio Olimpico, to Liverpool on penalties.
KEY PLAYER NOTES
Arsenal have had eight different goal scorers in the CL this season, only Barcelona have more (nine).
Robin van Persie is one yellow card shy of an automatic suspension.
Roma’s all-time CL top scorer, Francesco Totti, has yet to score in 10 matches against English clubs in this competition.
Daniele de Rossi will be suspended for Roma’s next fixture if he is cautioned in this match.