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This is Europe - not the Premiership - 24/03/2004

This is Europe - not the Premiership
Frank will play - who will join him?
 
Links:
 Players:
   Ashley Cole
   Damien Duff
   Jesper Gronkjaer
   Frank Lampard
   Claude Makelele
 Managers:
   Claudio Ranieri
 Clubs:
   Arsenal
   Chelsea
 Leagues & Cups:
   Champions League

Tonight's game sees the top two London Premiership teams face eachother in Europe's Premier competition. And it's important to remember that this is the first match of a two-legged tie. Don't expect a Premiership type game - a good result tonight is quite different from a good result in a domestic match.

If Chelsea can keep Arsenal from scoring - and even if they don't score themselves, it'll be an excellent outcome. A 0-0 would mean Chelsea travel to Highbury needing a score draw to progress. I'm sure Claudio Ranieri is planning for such a result - the question is....how's he going to do it?

I see him having two options, the first of which is both attacking and defensive. In playing Damian Duff and Jesper Gronkjaer, he'll not only give Chelsea width, but he'll also be able to cover the runs of Arsenal's full-backs - and in particular, the runs of Ashley Cole. The second option is to play a more compact midfield and perhaps put Scott Parker on Patrick Viera. He tried this in an earlier game and it worked well until Parker was pushed out to the right and lost his influence.

As ever, Chelsea's team selection will be hotly debated. Makalele is now fit and has a good European pedigree - I'd expect him to play. As I've said, it's probably between Gronkjaer and Parker to link up with Duff and Lampard in the Chelsea midfield. Up front the choice is restricted somewhat as Hasselbaink is out injured. That leaves Mutu, Gudjonsson and Crespo fighting for the two places, and with Crespo absent from training yesterday, there has to be a doubt over his fitness.

Whatever the team, whatever the tactics, it's going to be a tremendous night of football. If Chelsea can do manage to get a 0-0, then that would be successful and leaves the tie very much alive as the focus moves from Stamfod Bridge to Highbury.


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