Tonight’s match at the Emirates is shaping up to be one of the biggest in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career.
Defeat tonight would leave the Arsenal manager staring down the barrel as a torrent of abuse is sure to rein down from the Gunners faithful, while a win would give Wenger a little more breathing space until Arsenal’s game with Liverpool at the Emirates on Saturday.
Arsenal may be the 8/15 favourites to win tonight but in Udinese’ Antonio Di Natale they face a striker who is in fine fettle.
Tonight would’ve been billed as the battle of the strikers as Di Natale and Robin Van Persie are two of the hottest strikers in world football at the moment – but the Arsenal man is suspended for tonight’s game.
Both players have scored 18 goals in their respective league’s this year, a tally only bettered by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo with 23, and Van Persie’s loss is a huge blow to Arsenal’s hopes.
Di Natale looks a huge price at 8/1 to get the first goal but it’s his 5/2 to score at any time that really appeals against an Arsenal defence that kept just one clean sheet at home in the Champions League last season.
Considering Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the same price as Di Natale to score first, the bookmakers may have underestimated this Udinese side and the 12/5 for them to qualify also appeals.
Theo Walcott, Gervinho and Andrei Arshavin look set to spearhead the Arsenal attack tonight, but the suspensions of Van Persie and Samir Nasri, coupled with Jack Wilshere’s injury leaves Arsenal lacking strength in depth.
Losing Cesc Fabregas wouldn’t be so much of a blow if Wenger could field a full strength side and while Arsenal are playing at home, this is a very tricky tie.
Despite their short odds, punters shouldn’t assume that Arsenal will line-up in the Champions League group stage and there is every possibility we’ll witness an upset tonight.