Champions League: Arsenal stretched to the limit ahead of clash with Marseille

Rosicky, Cazorla, Diaby, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bendtner, Arteta and Sanogo are all nursing ailments


There was an uneasy juxtaposition here last night as Arsène Wenger heralded the start of what he believes is the toughest Champions League group of all by warning his squad is already threadbare through injury. The Gunners arrived in Provence ahead of their Group F opener against Marseilles without eight first-team players and a paucity of options on the bench.

Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla, Abou Diaby, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nicklas Bendtner, Mikel Arteta and Yaya Sanogo are all nursing various ailments ahead of a match that marks the start of six games in 19 days before the next international break.

Follow the latest news and score from tonight's match - LIVE!

Wenger received some good news today when striker Olivier Giroud passed a fitness test and defender Per Mertesacker shook off an illness, but with Bendtner convalescing after thigh surgery, 17-year-old forward Chuba Akpom will be among the substitutes at the Stade Vélodrome this evening.

But the manager's concerns ahead of such a hectic schedule are palpable, especially given the importance of starting well in this competition with the bigger threats of Napoli and Borussia Dortmund lying in wait.

"Of course, I am concerned because we play now for two months every three or four days and it is important we get some players back because you cannot play for the next two months with the squad we have at the moment," said Wenger.

"If you look at the group, I would say yes, it is the hardest group because all the four teams have a chance to qualify. That means that every game is basically a very important one.

"On average you need 10 points to qualify so that gives you the task. Ten points in a group as difficult as that could be a reasonable number to get through."

Arsenal can draw considerable comfort from their remarkable away form, an improvement over the last six months which has been inextricably linked to this competition.

Victory against Bayern Munich in March may have not been enough to reach the last eight but beating the eventual winners sparked something in this team that propelled them on a run to leapfrog Tottenham in the Premier League, securing fourth place and another crack at Europe's elite.

They have been invincible away from home ever since. They set a record of nine successive wins on the road in easing past Sunderland last weekend and arrived in Provence last night aiming to make it a perfect 10.

"[We are] an exceptional team" said Mertesacker. "That's the main thing. We built up confidence from last season, especially the last 10 games where we didn't lose anything.

"You could feel it from the first day that there is something special in this team, apart from the first game [against Aston Villa], but no one dropped and the performance went well after that as well. We have shown so far that we are ready to keep our confidence and keep the run going."

They have, however, lost six of their last 14 away games in the Champions League and know anything other than victory here will limit the margin for error against more vaunted opposition.

Aaron Ramsey scored a stoppage-time winner on Arsenal's previous visit two years ago and similar resilience is required in what looks the sternest challenge yet to their unbroken run of reaching the knockout stages, which stretches back 13 seasons.

It is one of the enduring constants at Arsenal. Just like their injury list.

Kick-off 7.45pm.

TV Sky Sports 4 (h/l: 10pm, SS1)

Referee O Benquerença (Port)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
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.

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power