ARSENAL vs FC PORTO
Tonight, ko 7.45pm, Sky Sports 2
ARSENE WENGER insists the absence of captain Cesc Fabregas will not be used as an excuse for failure when Arsenal put their Champions League hopes on the line against Porto tonight.
The Gunners must come back from a first-leg deficit in order to reach the quarter-finals after going down 2-1 in Porto three weeks ago.
But they must do without the inspirational Fabregas, who suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury during Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Burnley.
“Cesc has a hamstring problem and we could not even take a gamble with him,” Wenger said. “I was hoping he would recover after the Burnley game because we were cautious with him.
“We don’t know how long he will be out. He is having a scan today and we are convinced it will only be a small time, and he has a small chance of getting back for next weekend against Hull, but to play him again would mean significant damage.”
Wenger is expected to turn to Samir Nasri to fill in for Fabregas in central midfield, and insists the Frenchman can be a more than adequate replacement for the talismanic Spaniard. “Ideally we wanted him to be there, but we want to qualify and the absence of Cesc is no excuse at all,” he added. “We have enough players and a strong enough squad to get round that and have enough chances to qualify.”
Arsenal have not overturned a first-leg deficit in European competition since beating Hajduk Split back in 1997-78, but Wenger believes it will be a different story tonight.
“This time we have scored,” he went on. “When you lose 1-0 away it is a difficult home game because when you start the next game you know it is almost over because you have to score two or three goals to qualify. This time it is different. If we score one and do not concede then we qualify.”