Arsene Wenger puts faith in rookie goalkeeper Vito Mannone

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger hopes rookie goalkeeper Vito Mannone is ready for the "big challenge" of a Champions League debut at Standard Liege tonight.

With regular number one Manuel Almunia having not travelled to Belgium because of a virus and Poland international Lukasz Fabianski still recovering from knee surgery, the young Italian is set for a baptism of fire at the 27,000-capacity Maurice Dufrasne Stadium.

Despite just one Barclays Premier League match, against Stoke last season, and a couple of games while on loan at Barnsley under his belt, Wenger is confident the 21-year-old can handle the occasion.

"It is a big challenge for a young boy to come into a Champions League game with such a big pressure, especially away from home," said the Arsenal manager.

"When you look at the stadium, it will be quite a difficult atmosphere."

Forward Robin van Persie is also unavailable tonight because of a slight knee problem, rather than anything to do with the facial injury suffered in a clash with former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor during Saturday's fiery Barclays Premier League clash at Eastlands.

Croatia striker Eduardo is, though, free to play following the decision by UEFA to overturn their suspension handed out after the qualifier against Celtic at Emirates Stadium last month.

Wenger said: "I am very happy we have Eduardo back because we have plenty of offensive players who are out.

"We have [Andrey] Arshavin, [Theo] Walcott, [Samir] Nasri and of course Van Persie.

"Eduardo on top of that would have been too many strikers to have out.

"That is why I am very happy to have him back. It was a good surprise I must say."

However, the Arsenal manager accepts the debate over cheating match officials will continue to rage.

"We have to accept this case has been instructed by the media," said Wenger, who had lambasted the whole episode as a "witch-hunt" against the forward, just back to match fitness from a year out with a broken leg.

"We had appealed because we thought we were in the right.

"If UEFA had decided that Eduardo was suspended for four games, we would have accepted it. That was the gamble we took."

Wenger insisted: "People have to accept this does not change anything to do with diving at all.

"In this case, it was not clear enough to convict Eduardo, but we still have all together to fight against diving."

Defensive midfielder Denilson is also sidelined by a minor back complaint, so Czech winger Tomas Rosicky could be in contention having made a long-awaited comeback at Manchester City.

Wenger said: "Everybody in the squad is very happy to have Tomas back, not only because we love him but because he is a fantastic football player.

"He has a good chance because it is a good opportunity for him."

Arsenal's Belgium centre-back Thomas Vermaelen has impressed since his £10million summer move from Ajax.

He said: "The first moment I came to this club, it felt like a family to me.

"For a player, it is very important that the feeling is good, and that was the case for me."

Liege are making their debut in Europe's elite club competition, having missed out on the group stages last season when beaten by Liverpool in their third round qualifier.

Vermaelen added: "Liege are a good team, what they did last year against Liverpool and also against Everton.

"We have to be very sharp and focused to win the game."