All the pins that Tottenham followers stuck into effigies of their erstwhile hero Sol Campbell when he defected to Arsenal two months ago seem to be having an effect. The England defender's unhappy start to his new career took another lurch for the worst when he pulled up lame in training yesterday. He will be out for up to three weeks, missing not only tonight's Champions' League tie against Schalke, and next week's away to Panathinaikos, but almost certainly England's final World Cup group match against Greece on 6 October.
A hamstring injury cost Campbell some of his pre-season period and although picked for the start of the campaign, he has looked neither fit nor comfortable. Saturday's performance at Fulham was one of his worst since the controversial transfer down the Seven Sisters Road and he now ranks 37th among English defenders in The Independent's Premiership Index, with an average mark of five out of 10. Yesterday, attempting to keep up with the speedy young Arsenal reserve Jermaine Pennant in a training session, he tweaked the hamstring again.
If Sven Goran Eriksson has an experienced and reliable replacement in Martin Keown to put alongside Rio Ferdinand, with Gareth Southgate, Wes Brown and Uho Ehiogu in reserve, Arsenal's Arsène Wenger is less well off. His defenders are currently going down like skittles: Keown can play this evening, but is suspended for Saturday's Premiership match at home to Bolton; Tony Adams' ankle injury is worse than was first thought, so he cannot, as expected, return this evening and will be out for as long as Campbell; Oleg Luzhny and Lee Dixon have not yet played this season and Ashley Cole is serving a suspension after being sent off in the 1-0 defeat to Real Mallorca last Tuesday. That means five international defenders are unavailable at Highbury tonight.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who played at left-back for the Netherlands against England and the Republic of Ireland recently, will cover for Cole. Gilles Grimandi, never convincing as a back-four player at this testing level, is likely to be picked ahead of Matthew Upson and Igor Stepanovs. It is not a comforting prospect against two Schalke strikers, Belgium's Emile Mpenza and Nigeria's Victor Agali, whose principal asset is pace.
"They will be a threat," Wenger said. "They're very quick and aggressive, and fight for every ball, and Agali is good in the air as well. Whether we keep them and Andy Möller quiet will be decisive. It's very frustrating for us, and always hits you hard when the injuries are in the same area of the team. But the group has to be strong enough to get over it."
If there is any consolation it is that Schalke, unexpectedly beaten 2-0 at home by Panathinaikos, are also suffering from early-season injuries, especially to midfielders. Jorg Böhme, who played in Germany's 5-1 defeat by England, and the Czech Republic's Jiri Nemec had to be left at home; Sven Kmetsch, a regular this season, is doubtful and Marc Wilmots, the holder of 59 Belgian caps, broke down yesterday. Ebbe Sand, the tall Danish international striker who was joint top scorer in last season's Bundesliga, has not played since the opening two games.
Unlike Böhme and Gerald Asamoah, who came on as a substitute in Munich, Möller, 34, and Olaf Thon, 35, have fond memories of Anglo-German encounters, having scored critical penalties in the shoot-outs of 1996 and 1990 respectively.
As a club, Schalke have less experience of the English, with only two previous ties played on these shores. In 1958, after winning the last of their seven national championships, they knocked Wolves out of the European Cup, but in 1970 Manchester City beat them 5-1 at Maine Road in the Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final.
The nature of European competition has changed much since then, and after last week's defeats, any sort of win would meet either team's needs tonight, as well as leaving the losers as sore as Campbell's hamstring.
Arsenal (4-4-2; probable): Seaman; Lauren, Keown, Grimandi, Van Bronckhorst; Parlour, Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg; Bergkamp, Henry.
Schalke 04 (3-4-1-2; probable): Reck; Hajto, Waldoch, Van Kerckhoven; Kamphuis, Van Hoogdalem, Thon, Vermant; Möller; Agali, Mpenza.
Referee: C Colombo (France).