Arsenal meet Udinese in their UEFA Champions League play-off Tuesday, a game that is huge for both clubs. Not playing in the Champions League will make it more difficult for Udinese to both attract top players to the club, but to also retain the stars that Udinese have.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in ten European home games (nine wins, one draw) since a 3-1 loss to Manchester United FC in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League semi-final. During that run they have scored 34 goals − an average of over three a game − and conceded seven.
- Udinese have gone four away games without a win since beating Sparta Moscow 2-1 in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage, a run comprising three defeats and a 2-2 draw at KKS Lech Poznań.
- Udinese’s 2008 defeat of Tottenham was the start of a five-game unbeaten sequence at home in Europe, a run of four straight wins followed by a 3-3 draw with Werder Bremen in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
- The Gunners have won only one of their last eight European away games – 3-1 at FK Partizan in last season’s group stage. They have lost their last three games on the road.
I expect Arsenal to name a similar side to the one that faced Newcastle United on Saturday. They will be without Robin van Persie, who is suspended after his sending off against Barcelona last season, but Gervinho can play despite his red card at the weekend.
Like on Saturday the big question will be whether Ramsey and Rosicky can provide the creative force that Arsenal will need.
Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs
Rosicky, Song, Ramsey
Gervinho, Walcott, Arshavin
The Udinese side is not the same one that ended the season as they have lost top players like Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona and defender Cristian Zapata to Villarreal.
I expect Francesco Guidolin to set up with a backline of three central defenders, whilst Antonio di Natale continues to spearhead the away side’s attack, with the Italian footballer of the year entering his eighth season at the Stadio Friuli.
Domizzi, Larangeira, Benatia
Isla, Pinzi, Asamoah, Doubai, Armero
Di Natale, Barreto
There is a dark cloud over Arsenal Football Club at the moment, with the transfer of Cesc Fabregas and the pending transfer of Samir Nasri, making it a great time for Udinese to play them. I expect this to be a tight two-legged affair, but Udinese will get opportunities to score a valuable away goal at the Emirates.
Score: Arsenal 2 Udinese 1
What do you think the score will be?