Kick-Off: Wednesday April 29 2009, 20.45 CET, Old Trafford, Manchester.
Going for the quadruple
Premier League rivals Manchester United and Arsenal meet for the first time in European competition on Wednesday night with a place in the Champions League final up for grabs. Man United are looking to be the first team to retain the Champions League, since it changed format in 1992.
United went through a bad patch earlier this month, but they seemed to be back at their attacking best if Saturday’s 5-2 victory over Spurs is any indication.
United are on an amazing run in the Champions League action and have gone 23 games without defeat in Europe, a record that stretches back to May 2007.
Although they have lost to Arsenal this season, 2-1 at the Emirates back in November, with their home record Sir Alex will be hoping to take a good result down to London for the second leg.
Want to win the big one
With a second European final in four seasons in sight, Arsene Wenger has this week admitted that a Champions League win is the only thing missing from his impressive CV.
Arsenal has been frustratingly inconsistent to watch this season, but some of their injured players are hitting top form at the best possible time and hoping to end the season with Europe’s top prize.
Arsenal are playing with a confidence and swagger that comes with a 19 game unbeaten streak. There was no better indication of this then the eight-goal thriller with Liverpool last week.
Even without Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin I have to believe that Arsenal will call Man United problems and they will score goals over the two legs. The problem with Arsenal is its defense and can they score more goals than the defense will conceed?
Gary Neville and John O’Shea are both out with injury so Rafael Da Silva is expected to start at right-back for the holders. Ryan Giggs should return to midfield and, if so, will make his 800th appearance for the club. The big battle will be in Midfield and whether Anderson can contain Fabregas.
Injury rules both Robin van Persie and Gael Clichy out of the game so Nicklas Bendtner and Kieran Gibbs should continue to deputise. Mikael Silvestre is also a doubt with a back problem and if he misses out Johan Djourou should feature. The big loss for Arsenal is Gallas at the back and the key battle is whether Silvestre/Sjourou and Toure can contain Rooney.
Unlike the game at the Camp Nou last night, I do not see this game ending scoreless. It is in the DNA of both teams to attack and this should be a great game. United will be desperate to take a lead back to the Emirates and whilst they may just do that, it would be no surprise if Arsenal managed to steal an away goal to ensure there is still everything to play for in a week’s time.
Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal