Preview by Numbers: Udinese v. Arsenal, Champions League Play-Off, Second Leg

Stadio Friuli, Udine
Wednesday, August 24
2:45 p.m. EDT, 7:45 p.m. BST
Arsenal leads tie 1-0
  • Referee: Olegario Benquerenca (Portugal)
  • All-Time: 1 Arsenal win
  • Arsenal's European Form: L-L-W-W-L-W
  • Udinese's European Form: W-W-L-L-D-L
Arsenal Squad News

Out: Koscielny (back), Gibbs (hamstring), Wilshere (ankle), Diaby (ankle)

No. Seriously. Calm the fuck down.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's look at this scenario a little more realistically. This is a big game for Arsenal, you know that already. BBC's preview put the monetary value of advancing to the group stage of the Champions League at 20 million pounds. Plus, given the number of players we all know Arsenal still needs to purchase, not having the draw of the top level of European competition would be a major deal-breaker. It's a critical game this. I don't need to keep saying that.

As for the state of the side, Samir Nasri has been sold and thus ends another protracted transfer saga. More worrying to me, Jack Wilshere has had a "setback" with his ankle injury and will now miss another three weeks. If you follow him on Twitter, you may know he watched Big Brother on Thursday night and he had Weetabix for breakfast on Saturday morning, but he didn't explicitly mention that he was back in training at the end of last week. My fears that this won't turn into a several month thing still have not been assuaged.

In terms of players returning from injury, Johan Djourou and Armand Traore are expected to return; both made the trip to Italy. Djourou played only nine minutes of last week's first leg; Traore was injured in a reserves match the day before. Tomas Rosicky has passed fit, though it is not certain if he will start.

Perma-hurt Kieran Gibbs remains out with a hamstring injury suffered in the first half of the first leg, while Laurent Koscielny did not make the trip with back spasms, though he could be ready to face United at the weekend. Ignasi Miquel has remained with the first time due to Koscielny's injury; he did not captain the reserves side in their win over Wigan yesterday.

Despite being suspended domestically, Alex Song, Gervinho, and Emmanuel Frimpong are all available in Europe. Robin van Persie returns from his one match ban and Arsene Wenger will be allowed to be on the touchline as Arsenal will appeal the ridiculous extension of his ban.

Predicted Squad: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Djourou, Traore, Song, Frimpong, Ramsey, Gervinho, Walcott, van Persie. Subs from: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Miquel, Arshavin, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chamakh.

Udinese Squad News

Out: Domizzi (thigh), Floro Flores (thigh)

There isn't much change in the Udinese squad news as their domestic season in Serie A has not yet started.  Striker Antonio Floro Flores suffered a recurrence of the thigh injury that kept him out of the first leg, so he will not play the second. Center back Maurizio Domizzi also has a thigh problem. Right back Dusan Basta is a doubt too, though no articles I can find seem to indicate what his injury is exactly.


Arsenal have a history of kicking ass and taking names on
Italian soil. Here's Thierry Henry scoring one of his
bajillion goals at the San Siro. Photo: Daily Mail.
Arsenal's form away from home in European competition is, like their current form in the league, dreadful. The Gunners have lost three straight and six of their last seven away from home in the Champions League. They have won once in their last eight away from the Emirates in Europe.

Last season, Arsenal got that one win at Partizan Belgrade, before losing group stages matches at Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga, then crashing out of the competition at Barcelona. The year before that, Arsenal won at Celtic in their qualifier and then won at Standard Liege before conceding late to draw at AZ Alkmaar, fielding a reserve side in a loss at Olympiakos, then losing in the knockout phase to both Porto (in that first leg) and Barcelona (in the second.)

Arsenal have won three of their last four overall in Europe, but all three of those wins came at home. Remember, though, that Arsenal needs only to score one goal to take a commanding lead in the tie, having kept a clean sheet at home. One Arsenal goal means Udinese would need three to win the tie.

Udinese's 2011/12 season still has not started; last week's first leg was their only competitive fixture to date. They have not won in their last four European matches.

The Referee

Well, who hasn't argued with Mourinho before?
Also, look how creepily stoic that official in the middle is!
Photo: Associated Press
The referee is Olegario Benquerenca of Portugal. Last year, he worked five Champions League games, including the quarter-final second leg between Manchester United and Chelsea (in which Chelsea's Ramires was sent off.) Also among those five matches was a group stage match between Ajax and Auxerre during which he showed three red cards, including one to Auxerre's Jean-Pascal Mignot, who was not even playing in the game at the time.

Benquerenca appeared at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and took charge of three matches in South Africa: Japan's 1-0 win over Cameroon, Nigeria's 2-2 draw with South Korea, and perhaps most famously, Uruguay's win over Ghana on penalties, during which Luis Suarez handled on the line in extra time and was sent off.

He has never taken charge of an Arsenal match, but did work one of Udinese's group stage matches in 2005, a 3-0 win over Greek side Panathinaikos.

Around Europe

Five play-off round ties concluded yesterday. Bayern Munich coasted through beating Zurich 3-0 on aggregate. Genk needed penalties to knock out Maccabi Haifa. Dinamo Zagreb held on to oust Malmo 4-3 on aggregate, despite losing 2-0 in the second leg. APOEL advanced past Wisla Krakow 3-2 on aggregate with an 87th minute winner. Finally, Villareal trailed heading home, but won 3-0 to knock out Danish side Odense, 3-1 on the aggregate.

In today's other four ties, Rubin Kazan hosts Lyon trailing 3-1 hoping the long trip to Russia will tire the French side, Benfica hosts Twente after drawing 2-2 in Holland, Austrian side Sturm Graz hosts BATE Borisov in a 1-1 deadlock, and Copenhagen takes to the road to face Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic already facing a 3-1 deficit.