Porto preview

Arsenal head into tonights Champions League last 16 first leg tie against Porto bereft of no less than five first team regulars. Andrei Arshavin and Eduardo are both suffering from hamstring injuries, whilst Alex Song, Manuel Almunia and William Gallas also failed to make the plane to Portugal.

Gallas’ absence will see Sol Campbell playing in Europe’s premier competition for the first time since Arsenal’s final defeat against Barcelona in 2006. The 35 year old showed he still has something to offer the club with good performances against both Stoke City and Aston Villa, but it remains to be seen if he can do it on a consistent basis, and at the very top level.

To add to Arsenal’s problems Campbell’s defensive partner on the night, Thomas Vermaelen, will play in spite of still feeling the pain of the leg injury he sustained at Villa Park in January.

It is testament to Arsenal’s new found strength in depth that despite an extensive injury list (Kieran Gibbs, Johan Djourou and Robin Van Persie are long term absentees), Arsene Wenger can still field a side with a legitimate chance of taking a positive result back to the Emirates.

Nicklas Bendtner and Abou Diaby added some much needed muscle to the side against Liverpool, and were pivotal in halting the two match losing slide. Wenger has pledged his allegiances to the much maligned Dane, and challenge the forward to repay the faith he has continually shown in him,

“I think we will see the best of him now. He was born in 1988 so he is getting to the best age for a striker now. Of course, he will still improve and learn a lot but at 22, you have to start to play at the top level.”

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