UEFA Champions League Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Udinese

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UEFA Champions League Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Udinese
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Andrey Arshavin of Arsenal dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on August 20, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The equation: do-or-die for Arsenal.

The North London giants have their reputation, their financial stability and their playing roster hanging in the balance as they encounter Italian giants Udinese in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League qualification round with a meagre one-nil advantage.

After a stalemate with Newcastle before a disappointing two-nil loss to rivals Liverpool in the opening rounds of the English Premier League, Arsenal literally cannot afford a defeat at the Stadio Friuli.

It will signify the first time in Wenger's tenure that the Gunners' have failed to reach Europe's most prestigious competition and will ignite utter panic at the Emirates.

However, there is confidence that Wenger's squad can defeat the enthusiastic yet inexperienced Udinese.

Arsenal were not at their best when the sides met at the Emirates last week, but they still managed to secure a one-nil lead.

It was a weakened Arsenal side who took on the Zebrette, and with the need for success immensely intensified, many expect Arsenal to rise to the occasion.

However, there are injury concerns for the Gunners', alongside the possibly tough task of securing victory in Italy. It will become even harder, as Wenger has been given a two-match ban after using a phone to communicate messages during the first leg, where the Frenchman was enduring a sideline ban.

Nonetheless, it is set to be a thrilling, exciting and intense encounter that the whole of Europe will eagerly await.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal directs his defence during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and New York Red Bulls at the Emirates Stadium on July 31, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Bleacher Report aims to predict the Arsenal starting XI.

 

Goalkeeper

Polish youngster Wojciech Szczesny has been on fire since the season ignited, and it is certain Wenger will continue to use the 21-year-old.

Countryman Lukasz Fabianski will continue to deputize for Szczesny while impressive youngster Vito Mannone continues to perform in the reserves.

England youngster James Shea is currently on loan with League Two side Dagenham & Redbridge, while veteran Manuel Almunia has yet to acquire a new club.

 

Defenders

Wenger has been hit with a blow, as key defender Laurent Koscielny is unable to play due to a back injury sustained against Liverpool.

However, imposing Swiss Johan Djourou should start despite concerns over a hamstring injury sustained against Udinese last week.

Djourou will partner defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen, who has been in sublime defensive form, in the centre of defence.

England international Kieran Gibbs is set to return after also suffering a hamstring injury against Udinese.

This ensures Bacary Sagna can return to his favoured right back after being utilized on the left (in place of Gibbs) against Liverpool.

Teenager Carl Jenkinson will return to the Arsenal bench after enjoying a promotion against the Reds over the weekend.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal remonstrates with referee Martin Atkinson during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on August 20, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
French left back Armand Traore could also return to the substitutes' bench after a leg complaint, while Sebastien Squillaci will again not feature due to a calf problem.

Teeanager Ignasi Miguel could also feature on the bench after making his Premier League debut against Liverpool, when Koscielny was forced off.

 

Midfielders

Arsenal will be immensely boosted by the return of Alexandre Song, who is eligible to play in the UEFA Champions League but missed the Liverpool encounter due to a suspension.

The Cameroon enforcer will take the defensive midfield role, with teenager Emmanuel Frimpong returning to the bench.

Czech play-maker Tomas Rosicky, who was rested against Liverpool, will return and will start in the midfield, provided PFA Young Player of the Year Jack Wilshere fails a fitness test on his ankle, which has kept the Englishman absent since the commencement of the season.

Wales captain Aaron Ramsey is set to continue with his place in Cesc Fabregas' former role, with youngster performing strongly in the previous leg.

England youngster Henri Lansbury is likely to receive a place on the substitutes' bench, while Abou Diaby is still recovering from an ankle injury that will sideline the Frenchman until September.

Samba star Denilson is on loan at Sao Paulo.

 

Forwards

The main talking point is whether or not French dynamo Samir Nasri will feature.

Nasri has been linked with a move to Manchester City all summer, and the deal is likely to be finalized in the coming days.

However, Wenger is eager to utilize the quality winger. But participation in the UEFA Champions League will Cup-tie Nasri for the remainder of the season. He would be unable to play Champions League football with City.

The Citizens' manager, Roberto Mancini, has threatened to eradicate the £25 million move if Nasri plays.

The France international is likely to start on the bench, while captain Robin van Persie will be the starting striker.

The hero from the first leg, Theo Walcott, will continue on the right wing, while marquee summer signing Gervinho is eligible after enduring suspension against Liverpool. The Ivorian will play on the left wing.

Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh is set to be the deputy striker, while Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin should also receive a place on the bench.

Danish sharp-shooter Nicklas Bendtner is unlikely to be included as the 23-year-old pursues a departure.

Teenager wingers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi are likely to miss out on places on the substitutes' bench. Carlos Vela is on loan with La Liga side Real Sociedad.

 

Substitutes

With seven places on Wenger's bench, Lukasz Fabianski will be the backup keeper, Carl Jenkison and Ignasi Miguel the deputy defenders.

Defensive midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong and Czech play-maker Tomas Rosicky will share the midfield replacements, provided Jack Wilshere plays. If not, Henri Lansbury should receive a place.

Marouane Chamakh and Andrei Arshavin are the impact attacking substitutions.

A huge game for the Gunners, and if they endure defeat then there is no telling what may occur.

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