Ajax v Arsenal
Ajax coach Ronald Koeman is set to start with the same line-up which performed so effectively eight days ago in the 1-1 draw at Highbury.
The enterprising young side, which featured six players aged 21 and under, more than held their own against the Premiership leaders, with midfielder Steven Pienaar particularly impressive. The youngster has even drawn comparison with Ajax’s most famous son Johan Cruyff.
‘I almost don’t dare make the comparison, but if you ask me who he reminds me of … it’s Cruyff,’ said Ajax General Manager David Endt.
He has decided not to risk striker Rafael van der Vaart, who has not recoverd from a thigh injury.
“We have to be very cautious with Rafael,” said Koeman. “I was a bit shocked when I saw the list of 80 matches he played during his first two years.
Recalled to the side is Egyptian striker Mido, who was dropped to the reserves for disciplinary reasons last week.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has confirmed that England duo David Seaman and Ashley Cole have recovered from hip and groin injuries respectively and are fit to face Ajax in tonight’s vital Champions League game.
“David Seaman is fit and will play, while Ashley Cole will also play,” Wenger confirmed.
“The team should be the same as against Ajax in the first game last week, apart from Martin Keown, who is fit again (to replace Pascal Cygan).
Apart from long-term absentee Freddie Ljungberg, Wenger’s only injury concerns are Oleg Luzhny (calf) and Kanu (thigh) neither of whom travelled toAmsterdam.
“Ajax are a very talented team who have a good approach and football education,’ noted Wenger. ‘Their players are very versatile and they will be a great side one day. We don’t calculate or stipulate about how another team will play. As long as we play well and achieve our maximum we can beat Ajax even ifthey have one, two or three strikers. We won’t be influenced by how many attackers they play.”
A win for either team will hasve a significant bearing on what has developed into a fascinating group.
Ajax (from): Bogdan Lobont; Hatem Trabelsi, Christian Chivu, Petri Pasanen, Jelle van Damme; Nigel de Jong, Thomas Galasek, Steven Pienaar, Maxwell; Andy van der Meyde, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Arsenal (from): Seaman, Taylor, Holloway, Cole, Lauren, van Bronckhorst, Campbell, Keown, Cygan, Stepanovs, Vieira, Gilberto Silva, Edu, Parlour, Pires, Wiltord, Toure, Pennant, Henry, Bergkamp, Jeffers.
Valencia v Roma
Only a freak goal from John Carew separated the sides last week and Rafael Benitez’s side will be looking to strengthen their position in the group with another victory tonight.
Miguel Angel Angulo is still suspended, meaning a likely place for Francisco Rufete on the right of midfield. Kily Gonzalez is also set to return after missing the last three months through injury.
“We are having a good time at the moment, but we need to respect our opponents if we don’t want to get a nasty surprise,” Benitez said.
“We won’t be up against the same Roma side as last week. They will be very tough. We cannot forget that they are an Italian side.”
Roma coach Fabio Capello, whose position at the club is in jeopardy after a disappointing season, receives a boost with the return to action of talismanic skipper Francesco Totti.
Totti has been out for three weeks with a muscle problem.His return is timely as Roma must cope without forwards Marco Delvecchio and Vincenzo Montella. Greek defender Traianos Dellas is also missing, leaving Capello to choose between Brazilian Aldair and Jonathan Zebina to partner Argentine Walter Samuel.
Also back from injury are Candela and Emerson.
“We have some really important players back so I am quite optimistic,” said Capello. “With Totti fit to play, I am waiting for the final training session to decide my team. The president has called for better results and we will answer him on the pitch.”
Valencia (from): Santiago Canizares; Anthony Reveillere, Roberto Ayala, Mauricio Pellegrino, Amedeo Carboni; Francisco Rufete, David Albelda, Ruben Baraja, Vicente; Pablo Aimar, John Carew.
Roma (from): Ivan Pelizzoli; Christian Panucci, Walter Samuel, Aldair, Vincent Candela; Cafu, Emerson, Francisco Lima, Gianni Guigou; Francesco Totti, Antonio Cassano.