Arsène Wenger said yesterday that his young Arsenal players would recover their poise and purpose in tonight's home Champions League meeting with Milan, after Saturday's calamitous 4-0 FA Cup defeat at Manchester United.
"They will bounce back, don't worry," Wenger said. "I'm highly confident in the quality and mental strength of this team. Many people have written us off from the start of this season up to now and we have always responded well. When you are at the top people expect always the worst for you but it's down to [you] to show that you can cope."
Milan may only be fifth in Serie A but they are the defending European champions and have a proven blend of experience – such as that provided by the 39-year-old Paolo Maldini, who recently made his 1,000th appearance for the club – and youth, such as last year's World Player of the Year, Kaka, 25, and the 18-year-old Alexandre Pato.
"It's the ultimate test," Wenger said. "We're in the position of challengers tomorrow because Milan are the holders of the Champions League. They have quality and experience, but we're a team who can challenge them and can beat them.
"People cross each other always. We hope we're at a crossroads, that the youngsters will show how good they are. I believe they will. What's important is that we play without the handbrake on and go into the match with desire."
The midfielder Cesc Fabregas spoke yesterday of having the perfect opportunity to expunge the disappointment of the defeat at Old Trafford.
"Everybody has to realise we made a mistake," said the 20-year-old Spaniard. "Manchester United were better than us, we have to accept that. We didn't play well. But we want to win things. When you play against Milan, you don't need extra motivation. We have to come back and be stronger than ever."
Fabregas said he had spent Sunday in subdued fashion, watching a video of the Manchester United match. "I don't think I moved from home," he said.
"I felt very bad. I thought about what we'd done wrong but, at the same time, we have to do what we did after the Spurs game [a 5-1 Carling Cup loss]. We have to realise we are not perfect but that we have things that we need to improve, to get better. We have to be focused and give 100 per cent. This is what champions are."
Wenger added: "Some-times you forget how good you are when you have a big disappointment. Who wouldn't be hurt by a defeat like that? The players were hurt and disappointed as well. We want to be the best as possible, but it was a bad day at the office and that can happen. What is the most important is to have big targets in front of you. This is such a big game, such a massive task, that we can forget about Saturday."
Emanuel Adebayor and Gaël Clichy are fit after hamstring strains. Bacary Sagna is available, as are Denilson and Theo Walcott. But the goalkeeper Manuel Almunia is not fit to take over from Jens Lehmann. "Jens will be involved tomorrow," Wenger said. Kaka, Alberto Gilardino and Filippo Inzaghi are likely to make sure of that.
Tonight's probable teams
Ref: C Bo Larsen (Denmark), TV: Sky Sports 2 Kick-off: 19.45Reuse content