Wenger forced to rely on Mannone to repel Liege

Vito Mannone will be Arsenal's last line of defence as they embark on their latest quest to lift the Champions League. The rookie goalkeeper, 21, but with only three senior appearances behind him, is pitched into the cauldron of the Stade Maurice Dufrasne as Arsenal's senior goalkeeper, Manuel Almunia, has a chest infection, and regular back-up Lukasz Fabianski is still recovering from a knee operation.

Arsenal will also be without Robin van Persie (knee) and Denilson (back), while Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Andrei Arshavin remain absent but Eduardo da Silva, fresh from his reprieve on appeal by Uefa, will play.

Arsenal paid Atalanta £350,000 compensation for Mannone, then 17, four years ago. His experience is limited to a pair of unhappy loan appearances at Barnsley in 2006, and the final match of last season, a dead match against Stoke which Arsenal won 4-1. "It is a big challenge for a young boy to come in to a Champions League game with such pressure," admitted Arsène Wenger, "especially away from home and at a ground with a heated atmosphere such as this one.

"He's only played one first-team game, but at least he's played one where he did quite well. I'm confident in him. Anyway, if you look at the number of shots we have had on our goal recently, there have not been too many, unfortunately the last two games [during which Arsenal have conceded six goals] we got hit hard with every goal chance that went in."

Understudying Mannone will be 19-year-old Pole Wojciech Szczesny, signed from Legia Warsaw's youth system at 16. Both players, under the new Premier League regulations, would count as home-grown. That none of Arsenal's four goalkeepers are English says much about the state of English goalkeeping at present.

Wenger revealed Arsenal used a "forensic expert who proved [Eduardo] had been touched on his ankle" to ensure the Croatian striker would be available tonight. "I'm very happy to have Eduardo back as we have plenty of offensive players out, to be without him as well would be one too many," he said.

Standard are back-to-back Belgian champions, unbeaten at home in 2009, worried Liverpool in last year's Champions League qualifying, then knocked Everton out of the Uefa Cup. Milan Jovanovic, the centre-forward, is a handful as is, in a less conventional manner, his partner Dieudonne Mbokani. However, American defender Oguchi Onyewu has left for Milan and, at the weekend, inspirational captain Steven Defour was lost to a broken foot.

Like Arsenal they have a player controversially eligible. Axel Witsel – named, it is said, after Guns 'N' Roses singer Axel Rose – has been banned for eight matches from domestic competition following a crude tackle against rivals Anderlecht, but Uefa refused a request by the Belgian FA to extend the suspension to the Champions League. The 20-year-old Witsel, last season's Belgian player of the year, will seek to subdue Cesc Fabregas.

Laszlo Boloni, Standard's Romanian coach, knows what it is like to win the European Cup having been in the Steaua Bucharest team which defeated Terry Venables' Barcelona on penalties in 1986. Boloni, who missed his kick, said, "Arsenal play the best football in England. In Europe you can only compare Barcelona to them. Even when we are at 100 per cent we are still a little bit short to beat such a great team, but this team has an ability to surprise big teams."

He will not be the only one surprised if Arsenal lose, despite Mannone's baptism, but neither is a repeat likely of Arsenal's last result here, a 7-0 Cup-Winners' Cup win in 1993.

£350,000

The fee paid by Arsenal to Atalanta four years ago as compensation to complete the move for then 17-year-old Mannone.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
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.

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?