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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor