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Champions League Play-Off Preview: Celtic – Arsenal

Kick-Off: Tuesday 18 August 2009, 19.45 BST.
Celtic Park, Glasgow

The Auld Enemy

Having already seen off the challenge of Dinamo Moscow, Celtic head into a daunting-looking tie against Arsenal chasing the glittering prize of Champions League qualification.

Whilst the Hoops will undoubtedly be the underdogs, this still promises to be a stiff test for the Gunners, and manager Tony Mowbray has admitted the game is crucial to the Scots.

Of course, Celtic are no strangers to Europe’s top competition and have already beaten the likes of Milan and Manchester United at Celtic Park in recent seasons, meaning Arsenal dare not take their trip to Glasgow for granted.

Mowbray’s men warmed up for the game with a 3-1 away win over Aberdeen at the weekend, which bodes well for their midweek exploits.

Winger Aiden McGeady grabbed a brace to inspire the Hoops to victory, and Celtic certainly possess enough firepower to cause the Gunners problems.

The home side will also be boosted by what will surely be a fantastic atmosphere in Glasgow, with plenty of intensity as Scotland takes on England.

First team coach Mark Venus has already admitted he is expecting a special night and is hoping that the Premier League outfit underestimate his side.

Dare Not Lose

Arsenal, meanwhile, head into their fourth consecutive appearance in the qualifiers with the one tie they probably wanted the least.

Previous seasons have seen the likes of Twente, Sparta Prague and Dinamo Zagreb simply swept aside, but this promises to be a much tougher assignment altogether.

Indeed how the Gunners’ young players cope with the intensity of the atmosphere at Celtic Park may go a long way to deciding the tie.

Arsenal stopper Manuel Almunia has insisted it would be a tragedy if the north Londoners failed to make it through, yet their weekend’s exploits should see them head to Scotland full of confidence.

Despite many commentators having written Arsene Wenger’s side off before a ball had even been kicked, the Gunners began their campaign in fine style at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Everton were crushed 6-1 in a superb display that must have sent chills through those watching up in Glasgow.

FORM GUIDE
Last Five Results

Celtic


Aug 15: Aberdeen 1-3 Celtic
Aug 8: Man City 2-1 Celtic
Aug 5: Dinamo Moscow 0-2 Celtic
Aug 1: Celtic 1-2 Sunderland
July 29: Celtic 0-1 Dinamo Moscow

Arsenal

Aug 15: Everton 1-6 Arsenal
Aug 8: Valencia 2-0 Arsenal
Aug 2: Arsenal 3-0 Rangers
Aug 1: Arsenal 2-1 Atletico Madrid
July 29: Hannover 0-1 Arsenal

TEAM NEWS

Celtic

Glenn Loovens is a doubt whilst Stephen McManus is definitely out. Shaun Maloney should be fit and Gary Caldwell is expected to return to the defence.

Possible Starting XI: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, Loovens, O’Dea, N’Guemo, Donati, McGeady, McDonald, Fortune, Maloney

Arsenal

After missing the trip to Everton on Saturday, Abou Diaby should return to the squad after injury but the game comes too soon for Theo Walcott who is expected to miss out.

Possible Starting XI:
Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Denilson, Arshavin, Bendtner, Van Persie

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Celtic


Republic of Ireland international Aiden McGeady bagged a brace at the weekend against Aberdeen, and Mowbray will be hoping he can continue that form on Tuesday night.

The 23-year-old admitted this weekend that he feels Arsenal are beatable and he will be hoping to prove that at Celtic Park.

Arsenal

Andrey Arshavin could make his Champions League debut for the Gunners, having been ineligible last season, and his trickery may be exactly what is required to break down Celtic.

The Russian has flourished in the Premier League but will undoubtedly relish his European bow and he could be the man to make the difference.

PREDICTION

This is undoubtedly a difficult fixture for both sides, although European nights at Celtic Park often bring out the best in the Hoops.

A fantastic atmosphere will await the Gunners, and whilst a win may be a tough ask, they possess enough quality to grab at least one away goal and give themselves the upper hand in the tie.

Celtic 2-2 Arsenal

Gill Clark, Goal.com