First off, there is the possibilty that Cesc is fit, so is Theo and Nik. At last we have the opportunity to rotate the squad. Without diminishing the threat of Shakhtar, it is time to give certain players a rest before the real business of the PL at the weekend. Arshavin for one needs a break.
Tonight I would like to see Theo start on the right and Chamakh play centrally, with Chamakh getting a rest after 60 minutes, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nik start. Bendtner does well in European ties.
I expect Wilshere to start ahead of his 3 match ban, his form has been outstanding and Shakhtar will be stunned by our 18 y.o marvel. Should Cesc start we will play a very attacking midfield though I expect him to be on the bench ahead of the important game at Man City. The defence picks itself with so many injuries, though perhaps Gibbs will be fit in which case I would expect him to start ahead of Clichy.
Shakhtar bring our old friend Eduardo back to THOF and he will get a hero’s welcome. Despite never reaching the heights expected of him on his return from injury, he gave all for the cause and left with dignity. I wish him well but not tonight. Shakhtar have a decent record in the CL however we have a superb home record in the CL and I expect it to continue. That said, Shakhtar not having conceded a goal in the CL this season plus they have won 15 out of 17 in the Ukranian League. They are level on points with us and having won 3-0 in Braga are clearly no mugs, but we will surely beat them if we play to our potential.
This Arsenal team look great on European nights and appear to play better against foreign teams who play the passing game as opposed to the muscularity of the Premiership, though Shakhtar who play with two hard tackling midfielders are not afraid of the physical challenge.
It should be noted that Shakhtar Donetsk won the UEFA Cup in 2009 and are a fine team.
Donetsk is Ukraine’s second city with a population of over a million. It was founded by a Welshman (John Hughes) in 1869 (no kidding!!). More Russians live in Donetsk than Ukranians and the city was called Stalin until 1961. The Euro 2012 semi-final is due to be played in Shakhtar’s stadium. The most famous son of Donetsk is Sergei Bubka the brilliant pole vaulter who between the years 1984 -1994 broke his own world record 18 times! He remains the world record holder 16 years later.
Can we win? Yes. Will we win? Yes