Almunia to lead from the back

Manuel Almunia is set to captain Arsenal FC against FC Porto and the goalkeeper, who missed the first-leg loss, promised: "The only thing we have to do is to go for it and fight for the victory."

Manuel Almunia missed the first leg but is likely to captain Arsenal in the return
Manuel Almunia missed the first leg but is likely to captain Arsenal in the return ©Getty Images

Manuel Almunia insists his focus will not be affected should he be named Arsenal FC captain in the absence of Cesc Fàbregas on Tuesday night, as the Gunners attempt to overturn a 2-1 UEFA Champions League first knockout round deficit at home against FC Porto.

The hamstring injury that caused Fàbregas to be withdrawn after opening the scoring in Saturday's 3-1 defeat of Burnley FC has ruled the Spaniard out of the decisive encounter with Porto. With regular deputy Robin van Persie also on the sidelines, the armband looks set to be passed to Fàbregas's compatriot between the posts.

"Normally, when Cesc and Robin are not in the squad I get it," the 32-year-old goalkeeper said. "My role will be the same as when I'm not captain and just in goal. I have the personality and I will help the team as I normally do every game; the armband doesn't change anything for me. The only thing we have to do tomorrow is to go for it and fight for the victory."

Fàbregas's 17 goals in all competitions this season represent almost double the total of any other player in the squad, but Almunia is more than confident that, even without the midfielder, Arsenal can reach the quarter-finals. "He's a fantastic player and every time he's not the pitch we miss him a lot," he said. "Of course he will be a big loss, but all the players are 100% committed to going through."

Almunia was himself absent for the first leg in Portugal, where his understudy, Łukasz Fabiański, endured a difficult evening. The Polish international misjudged a cross from Silvestre Varela before later picking up Sol Campbell's back pass to concede the free-kick from which Porto clinched victory, but Arsenal's regular No1 was reluctant to single out his team-mate. "We win as a team and lose as a team," he said.

"The responsibility of losing is on every player; we don't like to speak about silly mistakes," added the Pamplona native, who has featured just twice in the competition this term. "I understand people talk about the goals we conceded but I wouldn't like to talk about a team-mate's mistakes and prefer to focus on our performance in general. We had a bad result but we only need a 1-0 win to go through, but, of course, it will be a problem if we concede a goal."

Striving to make that happen will be Falcao, Porto's in-form striker who has fired 15 goals in his last 15 games, including the first-leg winner. Almunia was nonetheless eager to underline that Arsenal "don't have to be scared of anybody", and added: "Porto are a great team. They counterattack very well, but everybody is focused and committed and I hope we won't have a problem in progressing."