Wenger hopes youth will shine in Athens

Arsenal manager rests stars ahead of Premier League trip to Liverpool

Arsene Wenger has long viewed certain cup competitions with disdain, flooding his team with youngsters until the latter stages of a competition. Even by his standards, however, the squad the Arsenal manager has assembled for tonight's concluding Group H game against Olympiakos in Athens sets new levels of inexperience.

With qualification for the last 16 assured following last month's victory over Standard Liège and his first-choice players seemingly picking up new injuries by the week, Wenger has named a youthful squad, opting to rest Cesc Fabregas, Andrei Arshavin and Thomas Vermaelen ahead of their Premier League trip to Liverpool on Sunday. Ten of the 18-man squad are teenagers, the likely starting line-up have appeared a total of 70 times for the club, with Alexandre Song accounting for 20 of those.

Former Manchester United defender and veteran of 77 Champions League appearances, Mikaël Silvestre provides the experienced head in defence at 32. Midfielder Tomas Rosicky was in contention following his recovery from a knee injury, only to suffer a groin injury during Saturday's win over Stoke.

Theo Walcott may feature after recovering from a hamstring problem, while Aaron Ramsey, England Under-21 midfielder Jack Wilshere and Mexico international Carlos Vela have all previously played in Europe's elite competition.

The reserve-team captain Kyle Bartley, along with 18-year-olds Craig Eastmond, Luke Ayling and Thomas Cruise – a left-back yet to make a first-team appearance for Arsenal – have also been included.

Wenger said: "All of the players that I have left have little knocks and need a rest, so I travel with a very young team. We should have a good mixture between young and experienced players." He conceded that he has left his methods open to criticism should Arsenal lose a fourth game in six tonight following defeats at Sunderland and Manchester City and at home to Chelsea. "It is a risk, because you know that if you do not win the game you will be criticised. But I trust these players to do well. They are young but have a lot of experience of big games and it will be another chance for them to show how good they are."

One youngster could be on his way out of the club, albeit temporarily. Highly-rated midfielder Wilshere could depart on loan next month, with Celtic, Rangers and Middlesbrough linked with the 17-year-old. "There is a chance, if we have an interesting opportunity," Wenger said of a loan move for Wilshere, who has made five appearances for the first team. "I would prefer it to be in the Premier League but the top level of the Championship could be interesting. It is important for Jack to play, so if we find a good opportunity we will consider it."

Olympiakos, whose form has improved dramatically since the arrival of Brazilian coach Zico in September, require a point to confirm their place in the knockout stages, and midfielder Luciano Galletti remains confident of gaining a result tonight for the Greek league leaders. "Arsenal is a big team that has its sights set on the final but we want to beat them," he said.

Midfielder Jaouad Zairi has recovered from the thigh injury that kept him out of Saturday's 1-0 win at Xanthi, although defender Vassilis Torosidis is sidelined with swine flu.

Group H

Results so far: Arsenal 2 S Liège 0, AZ Alkmaar 0 Olympiakos 0; Arsenal 4 AZ Alkmaar 1, S Liège 2 Olympiakos 0; AZ Alkmaar 1 Arsenal 1, Olympiakos 2 S Liège 1; Arsenal 2 Olympiakos 0, AZ Alkmaar 1 S Liège 1; Olympiakos 1 AZ Alkmaar 0, S Liège 2, Arsenal 3.

Remaining fixtures: Tonight: Olympiakos v Arsenal, Standard Liège v AZ Alkmaar.

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine