Match preview: Arsenal v Villareal

Arsenal v Villareal, Champions League quarter-final second leg, April 15, 2009

The biggest week of Arsenal’s season so far and the Gunners come into this match against Villareal as favourites. Emmanuel Adebayor’s stunning bicycle kick ensures that Arsenal can progress with a 0-0 draw (8/1) and the “Yellow Submarine” have to score at the Emirates if they are to reach the semi-final.

Villareal were the better team in the first half at El Madrigal and deservedly took the lead with a long-range strike from Marcos Senna, Arsenal were significantly better in the second period and could well have added to their solitary goal in Spain.

“The Yellow Submarine” have also been rocked since the first game as they are without captain and talisman Senna, who strained a hamstring in the 2-0 defeat to Malaga. The games either side of the first game with Arsenal have been costly to Manuel Pellegrini’s team as they lost both (to Almeria and Malaga) and also saw injuries to Santi Cazorla and now Senna seriously hamper their Champions League hopes.

Going into Wednesday night’s game Pellegrini is also facing up to injury concerns over wingers Cani and Mati Fernandez which means Robert Pires could well start against his former club. The ageing Frenchman who runs like a duck is 18/1 to score the first goal.

Of course, Villareal are a well-drilled side and will relish what is also their biggest game of the season. The likes of Nihat and Giuseppe Rossi are quality attacking players and can make a difference in tight games. Despite holding a few advantages, Arsenal are unlikely to sit back with defensive injuries mounting up and because this is simply not the way Arsene Wenger would approach the game.

Arsenal are missing a number of first choice players at the back, William Gallas and Gael Clichy are definitely out and Johan Djourou and Manuel Almunia are also major doubts. Mikael Silvestre will likely start as could Kieran Gibbs, who was lucky not to be sent off at Wigan, at left back.

Arsene Wenger’s side are unbeaten in 23 Champions League home matches and have lost just once in 2009, at Roma in a tie they went on to win on penalties. In recent games Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas (the Spanish schemer is 33/1 to score two or more) have proved their importance to the attacking verve of the side and with major injuries, the Gunners should progress to a possible semi-final tie with FC Porto.

101gg predicts: Arsenal 3 – Villareal 1 (12/1)

Full match odds here.