Thursday 14 December 2017

Wenger to keep Cech in the cold for crunch Bayern showdown

Petr Cech Picture: Getty
Petr Cech Picture: Getty

Jeremy Wilson

Petr Cech is set to be left out of arguably Arsenal's biggest game of the season against Bayern Munich tomorrow night, with Arsène Wenger still preparing to keep faith with David Ospina in the Champions League.

Ospina has started every European fixture this season following talks last summer in which it was agreed that he would stay at Arsenal but there would be rotation between the Premier League and the Champions League.

Wenger did reserve the possibility of changing this policy if the circumstances demanded but he is pleased with how Ospina has performed in the Champions League and is understood to have decided that the 28-year-old should start in Munich.

It would still be a gamble given Cech's vast experience, big-match temperament and solid performance on Saturday against Hull City, but his form generally has been less commanding this season.

Ospina started each of the six games as Arsenal remained unbeaten in topping Champions League Group A - as well as their two FA Cup wins - and delivered an especially impressive performance in the 1-1 draw away at Paris St-Germain.

He is also expected to start against Sutton United in the FA Cup fifth round next Monday.

Ospina was selected ahead of Cech at the start of last season's Champions League campaign but was quickly dropped following defeats against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos.

Wenger also has a selection quandary in midfield tomorrow now that Granit Xhaka can return to the squad after missing the past four domestic games following his red card against Burnley.

Arsenal have largely struggled in those games but the performances of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been one brighter aspect. One solution would be to play Xhaka alongside both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin in the centre, although that would mean sacrificing an attacking player.

Mesut Özil's dip in form has been of concern to Wenger, although he is more likely to be deployed in a wider position than dropped completely.

Wenger has stressed to his team the importance of defensive discipline and ensuring that, unlike recent defeats at this stage of the Champions League, the match is not effectively lost before the second leg.

"Defensive discipline is something we have to put back in our minds because it's something we need desperately," said Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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