Tomáš Galásek says AFC Ajax are taking comfort from Thierry Henry's absence as they prepare to take on Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League.
Tomáš Galásek says AFC Ajax have taken comfort from Thierry Henry's absence as they prepare to take on Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League tonight.
Last season's ESM Golden Shoe winner is out of contention for the game at the Amsterdam ArenA with a groin injury, and Czech Republic international midfielder Galásek is mightily relieved. "They say every player is replaceable, but it is almost impossible to replace a footballer like Thierry Henry," he told uefa.com.
"His absence brings us an advantage," added Galásek. "With Henry up front, Arsenal know they have a man who scores a lot of goals, who can decide the match. And when Dennis Bergkamp plays alongside Henry they have a partnership so good that they can play together with their eyes closed."
However, despite that slight fillip, Galásek is not about to get overconfident. "It is good for us that [Henry] is missing, but we must remember they still have a lot of dangerous players we need to watch - like [Robert] Pires, [José Antonio] Reyes, [Freddie] Ljungberg, and [Cesc] Fabregas," he added.
With Henry and Bergkamp definitely out, Arsenal are light in attack with Robin van Persie also suspended. Surprisingly, Galásek was hoping Bergkamp, who spent seven successful seasons in Amsterdam, could take to the field against his former club despite the damage the 36-year-old could have done to Ajax's Group B hopes.
"It would have been my task to defend him if he played," Galásek said. "I remember having problems marking Bergkamp in our previous meetings, so I know what he can do. He is an experienced player with very good technical skills and he has won a lot of trophies in his career. I have great respect for him."
With Arsenal's attacking options limited, Galásek believes the Eredivisie side have to keep a clean sheet. "We have the players to stop Arsenal scoring," said the 32-year-old. "We must not allow them to play their football. Both teams like to play attacking football, but it could end up being a tactical battle.
"We must keep concentrating until the final whistle," he added. "It will be hard, though, because Arsenal are a team of eleven great players. Without doubt, they are the clear favourites in our group and I think that us, [FC] Thun and [AC] Sparta [Praha] will be battling for the second qualifying place."
Ajax have a much richer history in European club competition than their English counterparts. The Dutch club have been European Champion Clubs' Cup winners an impressive four times, including three times in succession from 1971 to 1973, while Arsenal are yet to win European football's premier competition.
However, the burden of history does not weigh on Galásek's shoulders. "I don't feel any special pressure connected to Ajax's history," he said. "There was pressure on us in the Champions League third qualifying round to take our place in the group stage, but now that we are here, the pressure is not so high.
"It is difficult to say if we are bigger than Arsenal," he added. "But the truth is that Arsenal have not had much success in the European Cup. They are very ambitious and I know they want to go as far as possible, so I don't know why they have not been impressive in the Champions League in recent years."