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Champions League Quarter Final Preview: Villarreal CF v Arsenal FC

Now this does bring back memories, think back to 2006 , the semi final second leg in El Madrigal, Riquelmes penalty miss in the dying minutes that sent Arsenal into the final. Many things have changed since then however, for example lets see the teams that lined up on that day :

Villarreal: Barbosa, Javi Venta, Pena, Quique Alvarez, Arruabarrena (Roger 82), Riquelme, Josico (Jose Mari 63), Senna, Sorin, Forlan, Franco.
Subs Not Used: Viera, Arzo, Guayre, Hector Font, Rubio.

Arsenal: Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Campbell, Flamini (Clichy 9), Hleb, Fabregas, Silva, Ljungberg, Reyes (Pires 69), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Diaby, Van Persie, Song Billong, Djourou.

Very different from todays selections aren't they? It's amazing how much has changed in the 3 years. Villarreal retain only Venta, Senna, Franco and Viera whilst Arsenal retain a few more in Eboue, Toure,Song, Clichy, Fabregas, Djourou, Diaby and Van Persie. Pires is the obvious protagonist having switched to Villarreal following that campaign. We also have another ex-Arsenal man in Pascal Cygan although it's unlikely that he will feature in the tie.

The weekend match against Almeria was a bit of a disaster, a 3-0 thumping and to make things worse a serious injury to the fans favourite Santi Cazorla. His creativity will be a big loss against Arsenal and I would just like to wish him a speedy recovery. There were no real positives from the game apart from the fact that a good proportion of our midfield contingent got a rest so hopefully we can just write it off. Maybe it will even give us a kick up the backside before the first leg.

One things for certain our defense will have to be on top form on Tuesday. Arsenal have some fantastic attacking players in Adebayor, Walcott and Fabregas whose creativity will cause us problems. Eguren could possibly be asked to do a man marking job in order to restrict the young Spaniards influence. Fortunately from a Villarreal point of view Eduardo and Robin Van Persie are doubtful for the game and Russian attacker Andrei Arshavin is cup tied having played in the first round for Zenit. Arsenal are similar to us in ways, they do not play the usual high octane English style of football but indeed are more European in their approach. They pass the ball very well and they will create chances. We cannot afford to give them time on the ball in the final third otherwise they will pick us apart. Their weekend result was much better than ours, they picked up a 2-0 win over Manchester City with both goals coming from Adebayor. He will be the main danger man and he will have to be watched closely. Heres how they lined up : Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Fabregas (Ramsey 79), Song Billong, Denilson, Walcott (Eboue 70), Adebayor (Bendtner 70), Arshavin.

I expect it to be relatively the same team that lines up on Tuesday with the exception of Arshavin who will be replaced by Bendtner. I firmly beleive that we can cause Arsenal problems at the back. Gallas and Toure can be got at and I'm sure Rossi will cause them plenty of problems. We also have the benefit now of a fully fit Nihat and he's gotten a few more games under his belt. It will be interesting to see who Pellegrini chooses to partner Rossi in what I predict will be a 4-4-2.


Angel - Gonzalo - Godin (?) - Capdevila

Cani - Senna - Eguren - Pires

Rossi - Llorente/Nihat

There is a question mark over Godin's fitness following the injury he picked up in action for Uruguay. That formation would leave us with a few options from the bench in Mati, Ibagaza and the third striker. I really don't want to see Guille in this game! Personally I would love to have Mati starting but I think for this game Pellegrini will choose Cani because of his better workrate and slightly better defensive skills. Pires of course will be under huge scrutiny but he has always been a man for the big occasion and I expect him to stand up. These are the games where we need the likes of Senna, Rossi, Gonzalo to show how good they are and that they can do it at the highest level.

Can we beat Arsenal? I definitely think so, we are hugely underestimated in the English press, I think Maddi referred to this before, they think that Arsenal have got the easy draw. Well, I think they will find something quite different when they visit El Madrigal. I'm trying to find a pub that's showing the game which will be difficult considering it's clashing with the Utd - Porto match, still there should be a wealth of streams available.

Update : Arsenal squad has been released, Van Persie, Diaby, Eduardo and Rosicky are all out injured. Talented Frenc midfielder Samir Nasri did make the squad.