Arsenal hit by injuries to Almunia and Gallas

Campbell to play first Champions League game for Gunners since 2006 final

Not so very long ago, a trip to the Estadio do Dragao was an occasion for English teams to dread – until, that is, Manchester United and then Chelsea won here inside the last 12 months. If Arsenal are to follow their lead tonight, they will have to do so without two of their most experienced players.

An already testing trip to Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League became a far sterner proposition for Arsenal yesterday with the news they must cope tonight without goalkeeper Manuel Almunia and defender William Gallas. Almunia has aggravated a finger injury that had been troubling him for two weeks while Gallas picked up a calf strain that could keep him out of action for a fortnight.

Lukasz Fabianski will deputise in goal, while Sol Campbell is likely to be given the nod ahead of Mikaël Silvestre in the centre of the defence. Campbell, 35, has not played in the Champions League since he scored Arsenal's goal in the 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final in Paris. If he plays tonight, Campbell will make his 200th appearance for the club. It would mark a quite remarkable turnaround for the 35-year-old, who earlier this season turned out for Notts County against Morecambe in League Two.

Arsène Wenger has little choice but to throw Campbell in against the Portuguese champions. "Sol has experience. That was one of the key reasons that we re-signed him," the manager said. "I thought that, if he needs to come in, he can give that to us. He has done well and coped well. We have Silvestre who can come in, too, but the difference is that if Silvestre plays then we have two left-footed players at centre-half.

"Certainly, he didn't think that, when he signed for Notts County six months ago, he would be involved in a Champions League game now. But when you have quality you can always come back, though it's not sure yet that he will play."

Wenger also put his trust in 24-year-old Polish international Fabianski, whose temperament for the big occasion was questioned last season when he was at fault for both Chelsea goals in Arsenal's 2-1 defeat in the FA Cup semi-final. His form this season has also been erratic, with Arsenal having lost three of the five games in which he has started.

The Arsenal manager can take more comfort from Fabianski's performance when he came on for Almunia during the Champions League quarter-final first leg in Villarreal last season. He did not concede either in that match or in the second leg. In fact, the Pole has not conceded a goal in the Champions League in 243 minutes.

Wenger said: "I have complete faith in Fabianski. He has shown both that he has exceptional talent, but that he also lacks a little bit of experience, for example against Chelsea. That's part of the learning process. I believe he's a very intelligent goalkeeper and he will have learned from his mistakes."

Wenger called for his side to produce a "special" performance in the town where Jose Mourinho, "the Special One", made his name. The Gunners lost 2-0 here last season in a Champions League group game.

"We can deal with it. We have the players who can come in and do well because they have the experience," Wenger said. "They've played in Champions League games, so we cannot complain about that. That's part of a successful team, to go into big games without your best squad."

For Wenger, that means a return to the determination his side showed in 2006 when they reached the final on the back of some resolute away performances, often when they were missing key players through injury. "We need to revive that spirit," he said. "We need to dig deep. We know that. You do not go to Porto, who have played 10 consecutive years in the Champions League, and get away with an easy game. We know that. We need to be special. We cannot turn up in the last 16 with an average game. We know Porto are always difficult, very committed, technically very good."

Arsenal will also be without Alexander Song, Andrei Arshavin, Robin van Persie and Eduardo tonight, meaning Nicklas Bendtner will start his first European match since September.

Wenger said he expects great things from Bendtner. "He is 22 and he can now start to play at the top level," the Arsenal manager said. "He is now in his best age for a striker."

Turning to domestic matters, Wenger stressed his opposition to the plan to introduce a play-off for the final Champions League place. "When you are fourth in the league after 38 games you don't want to battle with a team that is 10 points behind you," he said. "That is why the table is there."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment