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Arsenal FC may be defending a 2-0 lead in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League third qualifying round second leg against AC Sparta Praha, but manager Arsène Wenger wants his side to attack from the off.
Late goals from Cesc Fabregas and Aleksandr Hleb put Arsenal in control of the tie a fortnight ago in the Czech Republic, yet before Wenger contemplates a tenth successive group stage campaign he is demanding a performance from his team. "The first game was difficult and we were lacking a bit in the first half," he said. "We also waited until the last seconds to score a second goal. Sparta are a dominant side in the Czech championship. We have to start well in our home games."
Wenger's main injury concerns are in defence with Bacary Sagna having damaged his back in Saturday's 1-0 defeat of Manchester City FC to join William Gallas (groin), right-back Emmanuel Eboué (ankle) and goalkeeper Jens Lehmann (achilles) on the sidelines. Manuel Almunia, who started in Lehmann's place at the weekend, will continue in goal while centre-back Philippe Senderos is available having pulled out of the City fixture when he hurt his ankle in the warm-up.
For Sparta, captain Tomáš Řepka and playmaker Pavel Horváth are both looking to battle through the pain to play. Despite a knee problem, 33-year-old defender Řepka is eager to feature in London having spent five seasons in the English capital with West Ham United FC, while the 32-year-old Horváth is putting a groin operation on hold until the tie concludes.
Coach Michal Bílek is well aware that his side's chances of achieving an upset are slender but he is keen for Sparta to do themselves justice after being caught napping for Arsenal's goals in Prague. He said: "We want to do more than just turn up. We will fight to get the best result possible and must avoid the kind of slip-ups that decided the first leg."
Having seen some of Arsenal's domestic games this season, Bílek says there are reasons to feel hopeful about Wednesday's match. "They were lucky to beat Fulham [FC 2-1 on 12 August] in the Premier League," he said. "They will be without a few players, but [Emmanuel] Adebayor is back which means the attack will be stronger. They won't underestimate us. A sold-out stadium will keep them focused."
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