Bendtner for key Gunners role in Porto after Arshavin injury setback
Published 16/02/2010 | 05:00
ARSENAL fly to Porto today without striker Andrei Arshavin, while Alexandre Song is a major doubt for the first leg of their Champions League tie tomorrow.
Arshavin, who has a hamstring strain, has scored only one goal in his past 12 appearances for the club but, with Robin van Persie still recovering from a serious ankle injury, the Russian remains crucial to Arsene Wenger's plans.
Arshavin's absence means that Nicklas Bendtner should start for the first time in Europe since September.
Arsenal could be boosted by the return of Eduardo, back in contention after missing the last three weeks because of a hamstring problem.
Defender Thomas Vermaelen will play in Porto, even though he is still struggling for full fitness a fortnight after it was feared he had fractured a leg against Aston Villa.
The 24-year-old Belgian was carried off, but it transpired that the injury was heavy bruising. Four days later, he played against Manchester United.
Arsenal will face Brazilian striker Hulk, who returns following a domestic suspension.
Despite being off-colour in the Portuguese league, Hulk could be the player to ruin Wenger's Champions League aspirations again, according to Porto captain, Bruno Alves, who warned: "Hulk is a player with great ability.
"He's strong and has very high technical quality. He has a fabulous left foot."
Hulk has scored only two goals in 12 league games for Porto, who are nine points behind leaders Benfica, but in the Champions League he has scored three in six games. (© Daily Telegraph, London)