SK Slavia Praha coach Karel Jarolím has vowed there will be no repeat of the seven-goal nightmare his side endured at Arsenal FC when the teams meet again.
SK Slavia Praha coach Karel Jarolím has vowed there will be no repeat of the seven-goal nightmare his side endured at the hands of Arsenal FC when the teams meet again in Group H.
The Czech league leaders were crushed 7-0 in London on Matchday 3 as Arsenal equalled the record scoreline in UEFA Champions League history. However, just two weeks later, Jarolím – whose side also lost at Sevilla FC having opened with a home victory against FC Steaua Bucureşti – insists Slavia will not collapse again in front of 18,000 spectators at the Evzena Rošického Stadium. "The result will be different," said the manager. "We are playing at home in front of a sold-out stadium, there will be a great atmosphere and I believe the outcome will be more favourable for us."
Slavia have carefully pieced together their shattered confidence with last weekend's 1-0 success against third-placed FK Teplice easing them six points clear in the 1. Liga. The psychological scars of their first encounter with Arsenal remain, however, and second-choice goalkeeper Michal Vorel will make his UEFA Champions League debut in place of Czech international Martin Vaniak. There is a welcome return for 2005 tournament winner Vladimír Šmicer, but with a calf injury sidelining captain and top scorer Stanislav Vlček and with his ready-made replacement Ladislav Volešák – Slavia's match-winner against Teplice – suspended, Jarolím's determination is tempered by a dose of realism. "We know how strong Arsenal are, but we'll be happy if our fans enjoy our performance," said the 51-year-old. "Any points for us would be great."
'Consistency and belief'
Arsenal start as strong favourites to pick up at least the point they need to reach the first knockout round, although Aleksandr Hleb and Cesc Fabregas are rested while Tomáš Rosický and Kolo Touré are omitted due to minor groin and calf problems – joining Robin van Persie (knee) and Philippe Senderos (back) in the stands. "We want to qualify as quickly as possible and we can achieve that," said manager Arsène Wenger. "At the moment I have not rotated the players too much because I did not want to take that chance. I wanted to give consistency and belief to the side. However, now we are in November, I will have to rotate a bit more because the first signs of fatigue could turn up."
'Finish the job'
Manuel Almunia will keep his place in goal despite an uncertain display in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Manchester United FC which kept Arsenal top of the Premier League, and Gilberto will add experience to a side spearheaded by Theo Walcott and Eduardo da Silva. Despite the changes, however, there is no question of Wenger taking Slavia lightly, the Frenchman explaining: "We want to finish the job. We have nine points, but that's not enough to qualify. It means a lot to us." Arsenal also accounted for Czech champions AC Sparta Praha in the third qualifying round, having beaten the same opponents twice in the 2000/01 and 2005/06 competitions. "We want to use the fact we have always done well here and continue that," added Wenger.