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Arsenal vs. Partizan Belgrade: match preview

Kickoff: Wednesday, December 8, 245 PM EST
TV Coverage: Fox Soccer Channel (also shown on on delay at midnight)

Arsenal welcome Partizan Belgrade to the Emirates tomorrow for match day six of the group stages of this year's Champions League.  Arsenal can assure their advancement with a win tomorrow; draw, and things get dicey, as third-place Braga are equal on points at the moment.  Arsenal can only win the group outright if they win and Shaktar Donetsk lose, something the Miners have never done at home.

The injury news is a bit mystifyingLaurent Koscielny, who was supposed to be out until January with a concussion, is suddenly back, but Johan Djourou is out with a thigh problem (hopefully not a bad one). Emmanuel Eboué is back, and other than that, there are no new returns or injuries.

Given that Partizan are bottom of the group with no points, and that Arsenal beat them in Belgrade 3-1, tomorrow's match is eminently winnable.  Indeed, Cléo's penalty kick is Partizan's only goal of the competition so far.  Of course, there are no guarantees, but Arsenal's home form in the Champions League this year has been nothing short of imperious.  The players know the importance of the match, too.

Winning the group would be nice, obviously, but at some point the team will have to face top-level competition if they are to win anything.  Facing Barcelona or Madrid in the round of 16 is not ideal, clearly, but neither is facing them in the semi-final when half our team could be out in April.  

Possible lineup (suspiciously similar to Fulham):


Sagna          Squillaci         Koscielny         Clichy

Song         Wilshere


Nasri         Chamakh         Arshavin

Would people like to see Robin van Persie start, though, or come off the bench?  Wenger hinted it was possible.  Also a possible concern is resting some players ahead of the Manchester United match on Monday, but that is five days away.