Arsène Wenger is confident Arsenal FC can respond to their weekend disappointment by overcoming Chelsea FC.
By Trevor Haylett in London
After Arsenal FC had emerged from a frantic UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against Chelsea FC with a precious away goal and a 1-1 draw, the overriding view was that the north London team had established control of the tie and were favourites to progress.
But since then Arsenal have been held at home by Manchester United FC in the Premiership before losing to the same opponents in the FA Cup semi-final and suddenly the picture does not look quite so clear. In contrast, Chelsea have won their last two fixtures to narrow Arsenal's advantage at the top of the Premiership to four points and they will believe this is an opportune time to make the short trip to Highbury.
Chelsea's main hope is that the soaring self-confidence which lifted Arsenal to such supreme heights will have been damaged by United's success last weekend. It was the first serious domestic setback of the season for Arsène Wenger's side, but the Arsenal manager does not believe it will have an impact against Chelsea.
"Overall the belief in the team and the spirit is very strong and mentally we have recovered well from Saturday," Wenger said. "I am looking for the team to pick themselves up and they should do because their history tells you that they have every reason to believe they are strong."
Wenger initially believed Fredrik Ljungberg and José Antonio Reyes would both miss the second leg against Chelsea having picked up injuries at Villa Park but they, along with Ashley Cole who has missed the last two games, trained on Monday and could come into contention. Ljungberg has two broken bones in a hand but could play with an anaesthetic.
Wenger suggested that Arsenal's priority will be to protect their away goal. "Of course we will try to go for the win because I don't think it will be very wise to play for a 0-0 at home," he said. "On the other hand we don't want to open the door at the back, we want a disciplined performance."
In a potentially pivotal week for Wenger's team, the match with Chelsea is followed by crucial league fixtures at home to Liverpool FC and away to Newcastle United FC over the next five days. Patrick Vieira said it was an "exciting" schedule and added that it would be "fantastic" for Arsenal to reach the semi-finals of Europe's premier club competition for the first time.
'One step forward'
"Our belief is still the same - we know how strong we are," the captain said. "The club want to improve every year, we want to be one of the biggest in Europe and getting to the semi-final is one step forward."
Chelsea trained at Highbury on the eve of the game with manager Claudio Ranieri insisting the odds still favoured the home side. "They are better than us because the table says so - we are the underdogs," he said.
"I find it hard to accept that the first game finished 1-1 and now we will try to put them under pressure. Against one of the best teams in Europe it is very difficult to find something [to exploit] but I like to remind myself and my players that in Europe we have won every away game."
Despite Marcel Desailly's suspension, Ranieri's biggest selection problem concerns his strikers. Although he has favoured Adrian Mutu and Hernán Crespo in Europe, Eidur Gudjohnsen's goal gave Chelsea the lead two weeks ago, and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has scored four times in his last two games.