The Gunners are in the driving seat with a one-goal lead from the first leg, but will likely be pushed all the way by the determined Italian side with a formidable home record
Ekstrand, Benatia, Danilo, Neuton
Isla, Pinzi, Asamoah, Armero
Jenkinson, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Sagna
Ramsey, Song, Rosicky
Walcott, Van Persie, Gervinho
Talismanic captain Antonio Di Natale will once again plough a lone furrow up front, with the midfield quartet of Isla, Pinzi, Asamoah and Armero all looking to get forward and support him, while the responsibility of protecting the back line will be designated to young Ghanaian Emmanuel Badu.
With the Gunners squad beset with injuries in defensive positions, boss Arsene Wenger may well be forced to field out-of-favor Sebastien Squillaci alongside Thomas Vermaelen in the center of defense, with Bacary Sagna filling in at left-back in the absence of Kieran Gibbs.
With Samir Nasri’s move to Manchester City widely expected to be completed in a matter of days, Wenger is unlikely to include the wantaway midfielder in the match squad, and Tomas Rosicky appears the most obvious candidate to replace him.
Alex Song and Gervinho, while still banned from Premier League action, are available here and should regain their starting berths, while new club captain Robin van Persie returns from European suspension and will displace Marouane Chamakh up front.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Arsenal and Udinese had never faced each other in any UEFA competition prior to last Tuesday’s encounter.
- If the Gunners can overcome their Italian opponents, it will be the 14th consecutive season in which they have qualified for the group stages of the Champions League.
- This is only the second time Udinese has participated in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League in their history – the first was back in 2004.
- Arsenal will be hoping to end a rotten run of form on its travels in Wednesday’s match, as it has lost its last three Champions League matches away from home.
- Udinese, on the other hand, will be confident of overturning the Gunners’ first-leg lead with a positive result, as it is unbeaten in its last five matches at the Stadio Friuli.
- Arsene Wenger’s side are becoming well versed in Champions League qualifying playoffs, having reached the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition via this route in four out of the last five seasons.
- Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin boasts an impressive record when he has faced English opposition in Italy. He has only lost once in four matches, winning two and drawing the other.
- The loser of this tie will face the relative ignominy of competing in the Europa League. Arsenal has never participated in the tournament in its current format, and its last taste of European football outside the Champions League was a UEFA Cup final defeat to Galatasaray on penalties in 2000.
- Udinese boss Guidolin may well be uniquely well-equipped to exploit Arsenal’s current defensive frailties, as he used to coach Gunners defender Squillaci at Monaco.
- If Marouane Chamakh features for Arsenal on Wednesday night, he will once more find himself going head-to-head with Moroccan international team-mate Mehdi Benatia.