By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger believes Nicklas Bendtner can repay his manager's faith in him and deliver on the big stage tonight.

The Danish striker missed 18 games after hobbling out of the North London derby on October 31 with a groin problem but is easing his way back to full fitness and is expected to start the first leg of Arsenal's Champions League tie in Porto.

Wenger spent much of Bendtner's lay-off extolling his player's virtues, insisting that the 22-year-old could fill the void left by the injured Robin van Persie when he returned from his own spell on the sidelines.

Now he's back, Wenger wants Bendtner to show what he can do.

"He can prove me right!" declared the Frenchman.

"I believe he is a boy who has a big potential. He arrived at the age of 15 and we work very hard with these players to get them to a level where they are today.

"Of course, we do not believe in a player for four or five years and then suddenly stop because people say you should buy a striker. We have a line of conduct and we keep believing in what we have done up until now and we hope they pay us back."

Wenger knows a thing or two about world-class strikers after transforming Thierry Henry into exactly that after taking the French star to Highbury in 1999. Bendtner has a very long way to go to emulate Henry but his manager believes he has time on his side.

"I would remind you that Thierry Henry arrived at Arsenal at 23 years old and he made a massive career. So Nicklas is still young," said Wenger.

"But I think we will see the best of him now. He was born in 1988 so he is getting to the best age for a striker now. Of course, he will still improve and learn a lot but at 22, you have to start to play at the top level."

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17 Feb 2010