By Chris Harris
Pop into your local bookmaker today and you'll see that Juventus are an outside bet to win at Highbury this evening. Yes, that's the same Juventus who strolled to the Serie A title last year, are eight points clear this season and have a plentiful supply of world-class talent and big-match experience at their disposal.
Arsène Wenger will not take Juventus as lightly as the oddsmakers seem to be. But while he searches for a way to win without Campbell, Ljungberg, Cole and company, there are two big names he won't have to plan for tonight - Pavel Nedved and Alessandro del Piero.
The Czech playmaker is suspended and the Italian striker was injured during the Bianconeri's 1-1 draw with Roma at the weekend. Both add creativity to a well-oiled Juve machine and both would have featured tonight. With Nedved and Del Piero back in Turin, coach Fabio Capello has a tactical dilemma to solve.
"Nedved and Del Piero would have given Juventus more options going forward so it now comes down to whether Capello wants to have a more attacking team in the first leg or go a bit more defensive," says Gabriele Marcotti of Corriere dello Sport.
"If he goes for an attacking line-up then Adrian Mutu will play wide on the left. If he chooses a more conservative formation, Giorgio Chiellini could play on the left flank. He is a bit raw and normally plays at left back, but he might go into midfield to add some physical presence if Wenger opts for five across the middle.
"The other option is to play Chiellini at left back and move Gianluca Zambrotta to the right to help contain Thierry Henry, as he likes to drift out to those areas."
Predictably, the return of Patrick Vieira has dominated the build-up to the first leg. However, if can you get past those headlines, tonight's game has the makings of an intriguing tactical battle. Marcotti can see reasons for both managers to be cheerful.
"Wenger will have watched Juve's game on Saturday and he would have seen the parallel between his side and Roma. Roma had their three main strikers injured so they played with a number of attacking midfielders and no real reference point up front. Their tactics were similar to Arsenal's against Real Madrid.
"Roma's approach caused a lot of problems for Juventus because their defenders were not marking anyone. The temptation was to step forward into midfield - where Juve were outnumbered - but then they left space in behind, and that's something Thierry Henry would exploit if Juve did it again.
"The flip side is that the teams who have created problems for Arsenal this season - like Bolton - have big, physical strikers. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Trezeguet are big men and very good in the air. With Vieira forward for set pieces and Emerson also very good in the air, Juventus should cause problems.
"The other factor is the big difference in the age and maturity of the Arsenal and Juventus players. Arsenal are in transition and have a team which will improve over time while Juventus are at their peak now. That might well influence the outcome over two legs."
So if you're thinking about parting with some hard-earned cash before tonight's game, think hard. Are Juventus really the outsiders? This one really looks too close to call.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source