Wenger wary of Lazio's 'Argentine Wright'

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The Independent Football

Though the Queen is in the Eternal City today she has not, apparently, been sent by her son Andrew, the Football Association's patron, to ask Sven Goran Eriksson if he would like to succeed Kevin Keegan as England coach.

Though the Queen is in the Eternal City today she has not, apparently, been sent by her son Andrew, the Football Association's patron, to ask Sven Goran Eriksson if he would like to succeed Kevin Keegan as England coach.

Nor is David Dein, the Arsenal vice-chairman and member of Adam Crozier's advisory panel, here to run the rule over the Lazio coach, however keen he may be to deflect the FA's attention from his own manager, Arsÿne Wenger.

Their tactical battle will, though, be watched with great interest after Wenger outfoxed the Swede at Highbury a fortnight ago with his deployment of Dennis Bergkamp on the right wing. That option is not available when the teams meet again in the Champions' League tonight as the non-flying Dutchman has remained in London. Instead, Wenger is likely to opt for a more defensive approach though he stressed yesterday that Arsenal cannot afford to sit back.

"If you play all the time on the edge of your box you cannot avoid free-kicks and they have players who can score those from anywhere," he said. Lazio also have one of the sharpest penalty-box predators in Hernan Crespo. The expensive summer signing from Parma was injured for the Highbury match and is still not match-sharp, despite scoring at the weekend, but Wenger expects him to form a £54m strike force with Claudio Lopez.

"Crespo is an Argentine Ian Wright," said Wenger. "Sometimes he can be quiet all match, then he scores. He is a typical 'box' player. Marcelo Salas [who will be on the bench] is similar but Crespo is more of a goalgetter and more physical."

Arsenal hope to counter the threat with a reunited Tony Adams and Martin Keown. Adams, unless his back suffers a reaction this morning to Saturday's game, as it did between England's matches with Germany and Finland, should be fit to play while Keown, rested at the weekend, returns.

Victory will put Arsenal into the second stage of the Champions' League with two matches to spare, a scenario Wenger relishes as it would enable him to increase the domestic pressure on Manchester United. However, he is aware that Lazio, despite interrupting their preparation with a Papal visit yesterday, will be much stronger than last month when Arsenal gained a comfortable 2-0 home win.

Lazio were just finishing pre-season then and Wenger said: "My reports from Saturday [when Lazio beat Perugia 3-0] said they were sharper and faster than when we played them. We will need a fantastic performance to win. It will be a big test, not of character, I'm not worried about that, but of our technical ability, our ability to hold the ball against a team who can give everything to attack."

Defensively, though, Lazio, suggested Wenger, could be vulnerable even though Angelo Peruzzi is back in goal after injury. In midfield Roberto Baronio may come in for Diego Simeone.

A repeat of the goalless draw Wenger achieved in the Stadio Olimpico, against Roma when he was with Monaco, would do nicely and, depending on results elsewhere, may even be enough to qualify Arsenal tonight.

Lazio (4-4-2): Peruzzi; Negro, Mihajlovic, Nesta, Pancaro; Stankovic, Veron, Simeone or Baronio, Nedved; Crespo or Inzaghi, Lopez.

Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Seaman; Luzhny,Keown, Adams, Silvinho; Parlour, Grimandi, Vieira, Ljungberg; Kanu; Henry.

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