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French affair at Highbury

Published: Monday 21 October 2002, 13.56CET
Two of France's best coaches come head to head as Arsenal FC face AJ Auxerre on Tuesday.

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Published: Monday 21 October 2002, 13.56CET

French affair at Highbury

Two of France's best coaches come head to head as Arsenal FC face AJ Auxerre on Tuesday.

By Matt Gatward

Two of France's most respected coaches pit their wits against one another tomorrow when Arsenal FC face AJ Auxerre in the UEFA Champions League at Highbury.

All to play for
Arsène Wenger, who led Arsenal to the 'Double' last season, and Guy Roux, who has been at Auxerre for four decades, meet with the home team needing victory to seal progression to the second stage and the visitors needing a win to avoid elimination should BV Borussia Dortmund beat PSV Eindhoven in the other Group A match. In fact, Roux has accepted that third place should be his side's aim. "Only a miracle could carry us into the second round and we must first worry about reaching the UEFA Cup," he said.

Unbeaten Arsenal
Roux's fears are not without foundation: Arsenal are one of only five teams to have won all three matches in the competition and they have yet to concede a goal. Despite losing their first league match for 30 games at the weekend, 2-1 at Everton FC, they have been in awesome form, with the 4-0 away win against PSV on Matchday Two a particular highlight.

Auxerre yet to win
Auxerre, meanwhile, have yet to win in the Champions League this season and have only scored once. They have also never won on English soil and were soundly beaten in Ligue 1 at the weekend, 3-0 to away to Olympique Lyonnais. Nevertheless, they remain second in the league and gave a spirited performance, despite losing 1-0 to Arsenal on Matchday Three.

Pirès may play
Gilberto Silva scored the winner that night and he is likely to continue in midfield with Patrick Vieira tomorrow. Ray Parlour (knee), Dennis Bergkamp (achilles) and Martin Keown (hamstring) are all doubtful but Arsenal will be boosted by the return to fitness of Robert Pires who may play some part tomorrow.

Wenger philosophical
Wenger, 53 tomorrow, remained philosophical despite the defeat to Everton. "We'll bounce back, don't worry," he said. "I'd like to congratulate my players for what they achieved. They are hurt but they will respond on Tuesday night."

Auxerre injuries
Auxerre are anxious about several injured players. Djibril Cissé is nursing a foot problem and his fellow striker Olivier Kapo is a doubt with a calf strain. The combative midfield player Teemu Tainio also only has an outside chance of featuring. However, the influential playmaker Khalilou Fadiga is back after suspension.

'We paid for mistakes'
"When you play a strong team like Lyon," Roux said after Saturday's defeat, "you can't make individual mistakes. We made some and paid for it. The result was fair, the best team won. Let's now think about Arsenal, who won't be easier than Lyon." Wenger will hope not: consecutive defeats would not be an ideal birthday present.

Last updated: 11/11/02 0.58CET