Wenger tips Bendtner to hurt Barça
Arsene Wenger feels Nicklas Bendtner can give his injury-hit Arsenal side "something different" as they look to pull off a shock victory over Barcelona at Camp Nou tonight. The Frenchman openly admits the Gunners are lucky to still have a chance of reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals after they were completely dominated by the holders during the opening stages of the first leg, before somehow salvaging a 2-2 draw.
Arsenal were already missing captain Cesc Fabregas, who suffered a cracked bone in his leg when winning the late penalty which levelled the tie, as well as centre-back William Gallas and Russia playmaker Andrey Arshavin, and yesterday lost midfielder Alex Song to a knee problem. However, Wenger maintains his team have what it takes to produce a performance on one of Europe's biggest stages.
Barcelona's central-defensive pair Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique are both suspended, which is a tactical advantage Denmark forward Bendtner could be able to exploit. The 22-year-old netted a vital stoppage-time winner to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League on Saturday, continuing his decent form after a hat-trick against Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League.
While Bendtner, who missed a good chance with a close-range header in the first leg, is often criticised for not being clinical enough in front of goal, Wenger has every confidence in the player. "He is important because he gives us something different," said the Arsenal manager.
"Bendtner has size, is good in the air, on crosses you have hope with him. When people told us you have no Plan B he gives us a little bit. We always want to play football, but he gives us an option in the air that we did not have without him."
Theo Walcott is expected to be in the starting XI tonight, having impressed when he came off the bench at the Emirates. The introduction of the England winger helped turn the match, as Barça full-back Maxwell was unable to live with his pace.
Walcott champing at the bit
Walcott slotted in an impressive individual goal before a late penalty from captain Fabregas levelled a dramatic tie. Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was full of praise for the impact of the 21-year-old, who produced an efficient display when restored to the starting line-up against Wolves.
Walcott would like nothing more than to be given another chance to impress against the European champions. "As a winger, an attacking player, you always have to be on the front foot," he said.
"Hopefully I can get at them and will give them a problem. If I can create space for some of the others, then that is all part of my job. It is a nice thing to have people talking good things - I just have to do it on the pitch."
Despite their injury problems, Wenger firmly believes Arsenal have what it takes to progress. "At 2-0 down in the first leg, I felt we needed a miracle, but always had hope. I know this team will never give up," he affirmed.
"The players know they escaped being out of the competition and we have a chance which we have to take. It is Easter and we have to resuscitate - that is what we want to do at the Nou Camp."
Wenger will make late decisions on veteran defender Sol Campbell (hamstring) and attacking midfielder Tomas Rosicky (calf).