Team news, facts and figures ahead of the Champions League play-off first leg between Arsenal and Udinese at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal will be without suspended duo Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie. Nasri would not have been expected to play as he moves closer to a move away from the Emirates, whileCesc Fabregas has finally completed his protracted transfer to Barcelona. Tomas Rosicky faces a fitness test on a groin problem suffered in the goalless draw at Newcastle. Despite his red card at St James’ Park, summer signing Gervinho will be available for the European tie, but England midfielder Jack Wilshere (ankle) remains out. Emmanuel Eboue is set to join Galatasaray and will not play.
Udinese have also lost key players since last season with Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona), Gokhan Inler (Napoli) and Cristian Zapata(Villarreal) all departing the club. CoachFrancesco Guidolin is expected to play a 4-1-4-1 formation with Italy international Antonio Di Natale operating as a lone striker. ForwardAntonio Floro Flores and defender Maurizio Domizzi are absent due to injury.
Arsene Wenger: “Maybe there are more questions about our quality this time, but that is where we have to show our strength and belief. We have a way to play football that we know. No matter how big the game is you still have to play good football and make a good pass when you have the ball. It is not more complicated than that, even in a World Cupfinal. Afterwards you deal with whether you win or lose.”
Francesco Guidolin: “I wanted us to avoid Arsenal and we got Arsenal. It will be very tough. We start as underdogs, but I am convinced that the lads will give their maximum, actually they will give something extra seeing that for many of them, including myself, an unrepeatable opportunity lies in front of them.”
This will be the first ever meeting between these two sides.
Arsenal have met Italian opposition 25 times so far in Europe: the record sees the Gunners losing only on five occasions, including a 1-0 defeat at the Olimpico against Roma the last time they faced an Italian team, in March 2009.
The goal scored by Juan in that defeat at Roma is the only strike conceded by the Gunners in their last six meetings against an Italian side.
Udinese have played only once against an English opposition in Europe, in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup v Spurs and won 2-0.
Arsenal have drawn only one of their last 15 European games (excluding play-offs); eight wins and six defeats (including three in the last four games) complete their record.
At the Emirates Stadium Arsene Wenger’s side are unbeaten in their last nine European games, winning eight of these and being held to a 2-2 draw only by Barcelona in March 2010.
Arsenal have won all eight legs of their four Champions League qualifying matches to date, conceding only two goals in the process.
Udinese have also a 100% in Champions League qualifiers, having beaten Sporting home (3-2) and away (1-0) in 2006.
Udinese’s goalkeeper, Samir Handanovic has saved 11 of the 24 penalties he has faced in Serie A over the last four seasons, with six of them coming in 2010/11.
Antonio Di Natale has been the most prolific Serie A player over the last five seasons with 97 goals in 160 games.