Sunday 17 December 2017

Song: Gunners are ready

Arsenal's Alex Song attends a press conference in Belgrade yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Arsenal's Alex Song attends a press conference in Belgrade yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Alex Song maintains Arsenal are ready for what is set to be a highly-charged Champions League encounter against Partizan Belgrade in Serbia tonight.

The Gunners were shell-shocked by their home Barclays Premier League defeat to West Brom on Saturday, where they had trailed 3-0, and now must look to get their season back on track with a positive result in one of the most intimidating atmospheres in European football.

Partizan may have come through three rounds of qualifying to reach the group stages, but the Belgrade side are in good form, with five wins from six to top their domestic table.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts his men produced an abject display against the Baggies, and knows only 100% focus will get a positive result tonight.

Midfielder Song insists the players are set to deliver.

"Normally we win most games but we have just come here to do our best because we know in the last few days we have not done very well," the Cameroon international said.

"We want to show we are ready."

Wenger has called on his team, which will be without injured goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, not to let themselves be distracted from the task in hand.

"We realise that we need to be focused in every single game, produce performances in every single game and that is what I believe we have learnt from Saturday," said the Arsenal boss.

The absence of Almunia, who made a number of errors against the Baggies, opens the door for Fabianski - with the Pole looking to take his chance with both hands rather than drop another clanger.

Wenger continued: "For Fabianski, it is another big chance - but you want a goalkeeper or any player to grab the chance when you get it.

"There is only one way to show confidence in a player and that is to put him on the pitch and give him his chance."

Stadion FK Partizan will be at boiling point come kick-off, as 'The Gravediggers' look to extend Arsenal's record of failing to win away in the Champions League since last September.

The Serbians, though, have something of a chequered history of crowd trouble and were thrown out of the 2007/08 UEFA Cup for clashes in a qualifying tie against Zrinjski Mostar - while in September last year, a Toulouse fan died in hospital after being injured following violence in a bar ahead of the two sides' Europa League tie.

Indeed, Partizan went as far as issuing a plea for calm on their own website, declaring "this is our chance to wipe out ugly traces of the recent past and we shouldn't miss this opportunity."

Wenger, though, is confident the game can pass without incident.

"We are always inside the stadium, so I do not know what is happening outside, I leave that to UEFA and to the Serbian authorities. I am sure they will do that very well," he said.

"Serbia is a traditional football country and I believe it will be very passionate because they are very passionate football people."

Press Association

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