Tonight’s mammoth encounter in north London is undoubtedly the biggest match that has ever taken place at the new Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal’s 60,000-seater stadium has never hosted a Champions League semi-final. Quite simply it is the most important match that Arsenal have played since moving from Highbury.
For United, it’s a rare chance to reach a second consecutive Champions League final to have the opportunity to become the first team to win the trophy back-to-back.
Both sides won comfortably in the league away from home with very much weakened line-ups over the weekend. United disposed of Middlesborough 2-0 and Arsenal beat Portsmouth 3-0.
And both teams seemingly have statistics on their side. United, the defending champions, have never been knocked out of a European competition by an English club. Arsenal have never been knocked out of a European competition in a semi-final.
The last match that Arsenal lost at home in Europe came against Chelsea back in 2004 at Highbury in the Champions League quarter-finals. United are unbeaten in a record 24 Champions League matches.
Rio Ferdinand is expected to start after he recovered from a rib injury that he picked up in the first leg at Old Trafford. Arsenal will be boosted by the return of Robin van Persie, and in his pre-match press conference, Arsene Wenger hinted that he may go with a 4-4-2 formation.
After Arsenal with a 4-5-1 formation were so outplayed by United in the first leg, most would expect Wenger to play van Persie with Adebayor in attack. It does of course depend on the Dutchman’s fitness.
And Sir Alex Ferguson is tipped to stick with the same set up that worked so well against the Gunners last Wednesday.
So United travel to London knowing that if they score one goal, Arsenal would have to score three in order to go through. And Arsene Wenger’s side know they must score to have any hope of progressing. It all makes for a thrilling all-English European night in London.
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