Friday, 17 December 2010

Champions League draw - Eden Hazard linked - Denilson to be sold?

Morning Gooners.

Prior to the visit to the Grove tomorrow by Stoke, we have the small matter of the Champions League draw to sort out and who we'll play in the last 16.

Going into the draw we're only able to get picked to play four teams: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Schalke.

Each pose their own threat, but Arsene Wenger says he knows who we'll get.

He said:
"I know who we will get! It doesn't matter who I want. If I say we want Barcelona you won't believe me. 
"I don't even think about it. I hope we get who I feel we will get."
"There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides - the Germans have a good break in winter and are fresh in spring, the Spanish teams are more favourites at the moment but that can change in two months.
"Have I spoken to Michel Platini? At that level you need connections!"
Now we're in the knock out stages, I don't think it matters who we get. If we come up against Barcelona now or in the semi finals, we're still have to beat them.

We just have to do our best, put on a decent performance and not regret anything.

The draw, carried out by Sir Bobby Charlton and former Liverpool midfielder Ronnie Whelan, takes place at 11am (GMT). 

Arsene Wenger hosted his pre match press conference yesterday as Arsenal have their traditional Christmas meal at the training ground today.

Between the courses the youth team will entertain the first team and reserves with some Christmas Carols.

And then our attention will turn to Stoke.

We all know what happened the last time we played them. Luckily for Aaron Ramsey he is on loan at Nottingham Forest and Ryan Shawcross cannot get at him.

However there are 11 other Arsenal player who will have to be on their guard tomorrow.

Wenger was asked whether he had forgiven Shawcross for the tackle which broke Ramsey's leg.

The Frenchman said:
"It is only Ramsey who can forgive Ryan Shawcross for what happened to him. I cannot forgive. I have not that power.
"If you were the manager of Aaron Ramsey, who is 18 and has two bones broken in his leg, you cannot say you are not upset, it is absolutely normal you are upset.
"I gave my feelings at the moment. What we were focused on after that was to get Ramsey back to playing again, what he is just starting to do now."
I'm sure Shawcross will come in for a lot of stick. Although many have described his tackle as "honest" I don't think diving in the way he did was something any football supporter likes to see on the pitch.

I think there will be a heated atmosphere and that should make for a good game. But all I really want from it are three points. Nothing else will really do.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis has a go at our disciplinary record. And whilst it's true in black and white we have more yellow and red card, I know we have been harshly treated by the officials.

Elsewhere, there is talk of Lille midfielder Eden Hazard joining us at the end of the season. Might well happen now that our work permit request for Wellington has been turned down.

And Wolfsburg boss Steve McClaren is apparently interested in signing Denilson. An £11 million fee is talked about. I would doubt Arsene Wenger would be interested in selling. However those people who've commented on that story would rather have the money than the player. 

Some early team news from yesterday's press conference.

Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie are available to start. Abou Diaby could make the squad. Whilst Lukasz Fabianski could return in goal if he recovers from his hip injury and replace Wojciech Szczesny. Manuel Almunia is sidelined for three weeks with an ankle injury.

The manager also spoke about our position in the league.

He said:
"We are still in a strong position because we still have to play Chelsea, Man United and Man City at home – Liverpool as well. More than ever, we will still have our say in this league."
Remember a win against Stoke will send us top again and if Chelsea beat Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, we'll stay there until after Christmas at least.

Finally, congratulations to Samir Nasri who was voted the best football player in France by France Football.

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