Arsenal v Ajax
Bergkamp scoring over 100 goals for the club, while Kanu won the Champions League with the Amsterdam club in 1995.
Arsenal go into this game on the back of their FA Cup success at Manchester United on Saturday, so confidence should not be a problem for The Gunners. Moreover, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Gilberto Silva, all rested for Saturday’s match, will be back tonight as Arsenal aim to take a huge step towards qualification for the knock-out stages.
It is now that we go into the decisive step,” Wenger admitted.
“It is of huge importance,’ he added.’
‘There is a pressure to do well in this competition, but it is a good pressure. We have worked very hard for the last five years to be in the position we are in. We have learned a lot and now we know we have the capability to do it.”
However, Ajax are the surprise package in this group, securing a draw and a win over group rivals Valencia and Roma respectively.
Unfortunately for coach Ronald Koeman, influential playmaker Jari Litmanen is ruled out through injury, with Rafael van der Vaart, Mido, John O’Brien, Viktor Sikora and Wamberto are also missing. Captain Cristian Chivu and Tomas Galasek return from suspension.
Last time out, when Ajax defeated Roma, Koeman fielded six players aged 21 and under and tonight, he will get another opportunity totest the depths of Ajax’s reserves.
Arsenal have no such injury worries and may even welcome back Freddie Ljungberg after illness and injury.
One good omen for the Dutch club: they have only won once away to an English club, beating Arsenal 1-0 at Highbury in 1971-72 on their way to winning the European Cup that season.
Arsenal are justifiably favourites to reach the last eightbut they know that with Valencia breathing down their necks, they cannot afford to slip-up. A patchy record showing just one win at Highbury in their last five Champions League matches, does not bodewell. But Wenger’s side have shown the knack of securing results when they need it and should repeat the trick against an inexperienced Ajax side.
Roma v Valencia
Defeats in their opening two fixtures have left them in a precarious position and anything other than a win and they can wave goodbye tothe knock-out stages.
Unfortunately Fabio Capello’s men have not been helped by the withdrawal through injury of talismanic skipper Francesco Totti.
“We will have to play the game of our lives to beat a great team like Valencia,” said Capello, whose future with Roma may be in jeopardy if Roma lose tonight.
“We don’t need a miracle, but we do want a brave performance,”ÿCapello added.
Roma lie bottom of Group B after defeats to Arsenal and more surprisingly Ajax.
As well as Totti, Roma will also be without Emerson and Walter Samuel due to suspension, while French international Vincent Candela is injured and new signing Oliver Dacourt ineligible. Capello’s may introduce Francisco Lima to the left of defence, while handing 19-year-old Daniele Di Rossi a place in midfield.
Valencia, who sailed through the first group stage with ease, are firm favourites. They have not lost away in Europe this season while Roma have yet to register a home win.
Valencia will be without Miguel Angulo, who begins a three-match ban, and Curro Torres, who has a knee injury.
For Valencia’s veteran defender AmedeoÿCarboni it promises to be an emotional evening as the 37-year-old returns to theÿclub where he spent seven seasons.
“It is very special to be back playing in Rome,” Carboni said.
“If Roma don’t win tomorrow they’re out and they know it, whereas we can draw and still have a chance.” ÿ