Pre-Match Report

Champions League: Celtic v Arsenal - Preview

Celtic Park

By Chris Harris in Glasgow

Arsenal are not the only star attraction here in Glasgow tonight.

While 58,000 watch the Gunners go toe-to-toe with Celtic at Parkhead, many more will be tapping their toes to U2 just three miles down the road at Hampden Park.

No one bothered to ask Arsene Wenger for his thoughts on Bono or The Edge at his pre-match press conference but one song from the Irish band's bulging back-catalogue summed up the Arsenal manager's mood quite succinctly. Wenger saw his team dismantle Everton 6-1 at the weekend but he is adamant: 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For'.
"I said many times that I believe in the team but you cannot go to any conclusion after one game," said the Frenchman. "It is one game and I believe we have room for improvement in every aspect of the game we played on Saturday – offensively and defensively.

"In every game we face a new problem and we start from zero again. We have to find the solutions that the game will give you. We will go forward maybe with a bit of lifted belief and confidence because we had a good result away from home at a difficult place.

"Every opportunity we created we scored in the Everton game which shows that the team is highly focused. Our targets are not reached yet but we had an important away victory in what is usually a very difficult place to take points."

Which brings us nicely onto Celtic. This draw was greeted with relief in some quarters as Arsenal avoided an overseas trip to Atletico Madrid or Fiorentina but, make no mistake, the Scottish giants are a significant obstacle as the Gunners look to reach the group stage of the Champions League for a 12th consecutive season.

Celtic leave Dinamo Zagreb, Sparta Prague and FC Twente - Arsenal's previous qualifying round opponents - in the shade, and they have history on their side too. The Bhoys have lost just one of eight home games against English opposition in Europe, and that was way back in 1983. Manchester United lost here three years ago and only managed a draw at Parkhead last season.

Then there's the crowd. Arsenal's youngsters have endured hostile home support at the Bernabeu, the San Siro and the Stadio Olimpico in recent seasons but Celtic fans probably eclipse all of them for passion and sheer noise. It all stacks up to a demanding night for Wenger's team - but it's a test he believes they can pass.

"The atmosphere is always heated in Scotland and we expect that," said the Frenchman. "I’m sure they will try and make it very hard for us but at at the end of the day it’s always XI against XI on the pitch and that’s what matters.

"We have been all over Europe in very heated places and we know by experience that what will matter is how well we play. If we play well we can keep the atmosphere low key – it’s only down to our performance.

"It is a very important game for us because we know what is at stake and we know how difficult it is to play here. It opens the door to the Champions League and we want to be in there of course.

"I still feel there is a high pressure on us to perform because it’s a massive game for us, but on the other hand you want games with that kind of pressure and you want the opportunity to show how good you are. We have another opportunity to show that.

"It is a game that we try to win, it’s as simple as that. I think you can only approach football like that. You cannot go into the game and think ‘let’s be 90 per cent and make the difference at home’ – it doesn’t work like that. We need to be fully focused and try to win the game.

"All we can do is prepare well and make sure we perform because we know an average game will not be good enough against Celtic."

Abou Diaby is back in the squad after a groin problem and could go straight into the starting line-up if Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) or Denilson (groin) fail fitness tests. Fabregas has "much more than a 50 per cent chance" of playing according to Wenger but Bacary Sagna is also a doubt with Emmanuel Eboue the obvious deputy at right-back. Theo Walcott (back), Tomas Rosicky (hamstring), Samir Nasri (broken leg), Johan Djourou (knee) and Lukasz Fabianski (knee) are still sidelined.

One man who Wenger can call upon for the first time in Europe is Andrey Arshavin. The Russian star was ineligible for the Champions League when he joined Arsenal in February after representing Zenit St. Petersburg in last season's competition.

The 28-year-old's experience and nous could be invaluable at Parkhead as Arsenal attempt to draw the sting from their fired-up opponents. But isn't all this 'Battle of Britain' stuff lost on the likes of Arshavin and his cosmopolitan team-mates?

Wenger laughed. "They will understand quickly on Tuesday night!"

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