Arsenal v Roma
First Leg: Emirates, Tuesday, February 24 2009.
Second Leg: Stadio Olimpico, Wednesday, March 11 2009.
This matchup has been overshadowed by some of the other fixtures in the Round of 16. However, if there are two teams that are capable of making deep runs in the Champions League, it’s these two squads. Both sides have numerous weapons on offense, both sides are well-coached, and both sides have plenty of European experience. Additionally both sides are well off the pace domestically, and this competition could be their only chance for silverware. As such, we can expect both sides to go all out in an effort to advance to the next round.
Both sides are riding unbeaten streaks in their respective leagues. Roma are unbeaten in 2009, and have climbed up the table after a poor start to the 2008-2009 Serie A season. They currently sit in 6th place, and have reeled off impressive victories over 5th place Genoa, Palermo, and Napoli. They don’t seem as overly reliant on Francesco Totti as in previous seasons, as Mirko Vucinic and former Gunner Julio Baptista are scoring as well. They are rounding into form and could be a handful for any team. And, keep in mind, the Finals are going to be on Roma’s home turf, which gives them a whole lot of incentive.
Arsenal are riding an 11-match unbeaten streak in the Premiership and could be getting some reinforcements back in the form of Theo Walcott and Eduardo Da Silva, and skipper Cesc Fabregas could be healthy as well. New signing Andrei Arshavin isn’t eligible to play, and the Gunners could be without Emmanuel Adebayor, who injured his hamstring against Tottenham.
Unfortunately for Gunners fans, their favorite whipping boy Emmanuel Eboue will be available and could play a huge role if Walcott can’t go. Despite their unbeaten streak, they are not scoring and have been rather fortunate as of late. Additionally, they’ve shown some deficiencies on defense and on set plays, and if they give up an away goal at the Emirates, then they could have a real fight on their hands in the reverse fixture.
In any event, this matchup should be very interesting given these teams’ circumstances and form. With both squads sliding in under the radar, it’s possible that whoever wins this matchup could become a bona-fide sleeper that goes far in the Champions League.
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