04 April 2006

Juventus - Arsenal Preview

The key things you need to know about tomorrow's game:

Situation: Arsenal 2-0 Juventus, of course. The target for Juve is to get two goals, which would send the match into extra time (and then penalties if necessary). If Arsenal get a goal, then Juve need to get 4 (due to away goals rule), which would just about kill off the tie.

Arsenal: The Gunners are coming off their 5-0 win over lower-half Aston Villa on the weekend. Emmanuel Adebayor is cup-tied and unavailable. Both Freddie Ljungberg and Aleksander Hleb return from injury. Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue were both subbed due to injury on Saturday, and both are concerns for Wednesday. However, they've both traveled with the team to Turin, so they may be available. According to Arsène Wenger, Cesc should be ready, while Eboue is still uncertain. Abou Diaby is ready to fill in for Cesc at need, while either Sol Campbell or Johann Djourou would be available in defense if Eboue can't go.

Juventus: Juventus drew 0-0 with Treviso on Saturday. Treviso are woeful -- 16 points and bottom of the table -- so the weekend can't have helped the bianconerri's confidence. Pavel Nedved returns from suspension, while Alessandro Del Piero remains unavailable. Of course, Mauro Camoranesi, Jonathan Zebina, and Patrick Viera are all suspended after their meltdown in London.

Television: Viewers in the US, rejoice: In a late change, ESPN has decided to televise the match. Huzzah! (It's nice to see they can pull their collective heads out once in a while. Now if they can just ditch Tommy Smythe...) So the match will be televised at 1445 EDT on ESPN2. Set your Tivos now. The only problem for me is that I've 'watched' all previous CL matches online. So my superstitious nature is asserting itself, reminding me of every major televised defeat I've seen, like Germany 1-0 US in World Cup 2002, or Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea in the 03/04 Champions League. But I've got to face those demons. (Right?)

Prediction: I'm a pessimist by nature. But I have to believe that we can do this. On the other hand, I can't imagine I'll be comfortable with it. Call it 1-1 final, with Juventus getting a goal around 40', and then Arsenal responding at 75'.

Or we could just win 5-0. That would work too. Either way, we should expect nothing less than an advance to the semifinals, facing either Inter Milan or Villareal. So let's do it, get the job done, and get the early goal. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!

Update: According to Arsène, Cesc looks good for Wednesday, and Eboue is 80% likely. So we're likely to have two of the key players back from the match last week. Here's hoping they're fit and play as well as they did last week. If they do... then I feel pretty good about the match.

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