Will the Gunners injury woes on defense expose them or will Villareal’s similar problems on attack prove to be their downfall.
Villareal’s injury problems are probably more significant in their overall impact to their game as compared to the Gunners.
Both Senna and Cazorla are out and especially without Cazorla’s energetic forays wide on the left, the Villareal attack became patchy and predictable against Arsenal in the first leg. They have been on a bit of a swoon without the services of Cani and Mati Fernandez through injuries in their weekend loss to Malaga. The midfield duo are expected to start against Arsenal.
Arsenal are without Almunia, Gallas, and Clichy. Djourou starting for Gallas went down in the Wigan match with a knee injury. He was replaced with Silvestre. Almunia’s place has been taken over by Fabianski.
Therein lies some potential for the Villareal attack.
The matchup that one worries most about is Silvestre against Rossi. It was Rossi’s clash with Gallas that caused the ankle ligament injury and ended his season. Before that Gallas was having all kinds of problems keeping the fleet footed Rossi at bay before the Italian striker ran out of steam. Silvestre will find it difficult to match Rossi’s speed and outside help will be needed to cut off the strikers supply from Cani and Ibazaga. We can hope that the damage done will be limited.
Fabianski lapses in judgement against Wigan did not prove costly as the Gunners scored enough goals and in the Villareal match he was inconsistent with his clearances, although never really seriously troubled.
Manuel Pellegrini will look to his players to exploit these potential weaknesses.