Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, challenged his team to "make history" tonight by overturning a 2-1 deficit from the first leg when they host Porto in the Champions League.
Arsenal take on the Portuguese champions without influential captain Cesc Fabregas, who limped out of Saturday's 3-1 victory over Burnley. A scan last night confirmed he has suffered a minor hamstring strain. The Spaniard could resume training on Thursday and has an outside chance of being fit to face Hull at the weekend.
Wenger insisted the loss of Fabregas, who joins defender William Gallas and striker Robin van Persie on the sidelines, will be no excuse should Arsenal, who have never progressed in the Champions League knock-out stage after they have lost the first leg, fail to make it through to the last eight. Samir Nasri is expected to move into central midfield to cover for Fabregas.
Wenger said: "He [Fabregas] has a hamstring problem and we could not take a gamble with him. Ideally we wanted him to be there but we want quality and the absence of Cesc is no excuse at all. We have enough players and a strong enough squad to get round that and have enough chances to qualify." Despite being only 22 Fabregas is a huge influence at Arsenal. He missed several games earlier in the season with a hamstring tear but he remains the club's leading scorer with 17 goals, including three in the Champions League.
Wenger claimed the away goal scored in Porto by Sol Campbell, who will deputise for Gallas tonight, could be decisive. He said: "There is always something new in our game and we have a good opportunity to change history. This is a very young team and we want to win. We have scored away from home which is still a massive advantage, and that's why we are confident we can do it. If we score one and do not concede then we will qualify.
While the injury to Fabregas is only minor, Gallas will be out for two to three weeks after suffering a setback in training. "Gallas has been out for a month and now he has had a recurrence of his calf injury. He has gone backwards again. We were impatient with him and we pushed him and he wanted to get on as well, that is why maybe it has happened," Wenger said.
Gallas, 32, is out of contract in the summer and is wanted by Roma. Arsenal have offered the Frenchman a one-year deal but have made it clear to him they will offer him two years if he drops his wage demands.
Manuel Almunia, the Arsenal goalkeeper, will captain the side tonight, after he missed the first leg in Porto with a finger injury and watched as Lukasz Fabianski made two glaring mistakes for goals.Reuse content