Due to a combination of injuries, squad size and a hectic schedule there has been virtually no chance for Arsene Wenger to rest most of his players so far. The only chance he got to do so was in the last round of this competition when the team managed to win on penalties away to West Brom after a 1-1 draw. The team that night was a mixture of players from the bench in the previous league game added to a few younger players.
I can only imagine it will be a similar team tonight with many of he same players getting a chance to play. Lukasz Fabanski, Nacho Monreal, Carl Jenkinson, Thomas Vermaelen, Nicklas Bendtner, Tomas Rosicky and maybe Jack Wilshere all look likely to play from the start as they weren't in the starting 11 on Saturday with Serge Gnabry a possibility too if he's passed fit to play. The other players will probably be Isaac Hayden and Ryo Miyaichi with one of the central defenders from Saturday's game playing too. There is also a possibility of Santi Cazorla playing from the start as he looks to regain form and match fitness after his injury.
It's not exactly the strongest Arsenal team and the injury to Mathieu Flamini added to the suspension of Mikael Arteta will leave the team without an experienced player to hold in midfield. It looks like that job will come down to 18 year old Hayden in only his second game for the club after making his debut in the last round. Their task will be a very tough one against a Chelsea team which should have plenty of class and experience in it.
If Chelsea operate under the same criteria as Arsenal they will still be able to field a very strong team thanks to their squad size and the overall strength of that squad. Of course it's a lot easier for them to fill their squad with very expensive players when their owner puts vast amounts of his money into the club and the game's ruling bodies care not a jot. I will be amazed if financial fair play ever actually happens and if clubs actually have to operate within the limits of the money they actually have.
As I've said previously I'm not too bothered about Arsenal continuing in this competition but I certainly don't want them to lose. I certainly don't want them to lose at home to Chelsea either but it won't be easy for them to get any sort of a result from this game. It will be hard for Arsenal to get the upper hand and the players who play will have to put in an awful lot of hard work.
If all of the injured Arsenal players were available the team would look a lot stronger but unfortunately both Flamini and Arteta can't play along with Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Even Emmanuel Frimpong might have had a good chance of plying his trade tonight but he too is not fully recovered from his injury. He's never really had much of a chance in the Arsenal team but he hasn't done too badly out on loan and would have been the ideal type of player to get a run in this competition.
As for the game itself hopefully Arsenal can play well enough to get a result and who knows maybe Bendtner will be the player to shine for them. His star has fallen an awful lot over the last few years but he showed what he is still capable of when he got both goals for Denmark in a 2-2 draw with Italy a few weeks ago. I really hope Arsenal win but it will be far from the end of the world if they don't.
Arsenal have far bigger fish to fry in the next week with three huge games and the Capital One Cup fades into insignificance in comparison to those games. Good results against Liverpool and United in the league might just make people sit up and take notice and maybe even think Arsenal have a chance of going the distance in the league. Sandwiched between those games is a Champions League trip to Dortmund from which Arsenal probably need to take at least a point to have a realistic chance of getting out of their group.
Most of the players who played on Saturday will have to play in all three of those games and that means tonight is a definite no no for them. If tonight ends in failure but the week following it doesn't then I'll be a happy man and resting those players is the best way to make that happen.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.