Gunners face tough test

Arsenal and AC Milan face daunting Champions League dates in mid-week as 20 teams chase the 10 remaining places in the world’s most lucrative club competition.

By (Agencies)

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Published: Tue 20 Aug 2013, 11:41 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:27 AM

Arsenal suffered a humiliating 3-1 defeat against in their first Premier League match. — Getty Images

Arsenal, runners-up in 2006, have a series of fitness worries ahead of their tricky trip to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce on Wednesday.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs both went off injured in the first half of their 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday while right-back Bacary Sagna also had to be replaced after falling awkwardly on the back of his neck late on. They were already without midfielder Mikel Arteta while centre-back Thomas Vermeulen and full-back Nacho Monreal both missed Saturday’s clash with back problems.

It is in defence that Arsenal are most vulnerable and their absentees in that department could cost them dearly, particularly with former Chelsea nemesis Didier Drogba likely to line up opposite them.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere said the club must rebound quickly.

“We’re not happy, we’ve got to look at ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got a big qualifier coming up and there can be no mistakes now, we’ve got to push on. We’ve got to pick ourselves up.”

Adding spice to Wednesday’s clash is that Fenerbahce’s potential participation in the group stage, should they get through, depends on a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, expected at the end of the month, having been banned from European competition by Uefa for match-fixing in domestic competition.

It will be a baptism of fire for AC Milan as the Italians start their season with a trip to PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday. While the Dutch outfit have already played five matches, including the Champions League third qualifying round in which they thumped Belgians Zulte-Waregem 5-0 on aggregate, Milan have yet to take to the field competitively as Italy’s Serie A does not kick-off until this coming weekend. It means a daunting trip to Holland for Massimiliano Allegri’s men to tackle a side that have won every match they have played this season, scoring 16 goals in the process and conceding only two.

PSV’s attacking prowess will be a concern to Milan who had a mixed bag in pre-season, including conceding five goals to Manchester City in a friendly in Germany, while they also lost games against Chelsea and Juventus, although they did beat Spaniards Valencia and Brazil’s Sao Paolo. Milan last missed out on the Champions League group stages in 2008/09 having finished only fifth in Serie A the previous season and Allegri, who was under fire for most of last season, will know that anything other than progress against PSV will likely cost him his job.

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