Arsene Wenger is upbeat again and rightly so as his Arsenal side look to conquer Rome tonight. By Saturday night, the Gunners could be in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup, and hold the much-coveted fourth place in the Premier League. Arsenal look to have found their rhythm at the right time, teasing and tormenting defences with their rapier-like attacks. Wenger, whose side are now unbeaten in 17 games, admitted: "We now go into the time where it matters. They [the team] have not always been rewarded and I want them to [be]."
He will hope a 1-0 lead from the home game should be enough to get them past Roma in tonight's last 16 second leg tie, but Wenger is looking for a convincing performance to show his men are capable of making a return to the Stadio Olimpico when it stages the Champions League final on May 27. When Arsenal hit top form, few sides can cope and Wenger wants his side to attack the Italians and not waste chances like they did in the first leg. The pace of Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott should create problems for Roma.
But the English striker, back after a four-month absence, is likely to start on the bench along with Eduardo, despite impressive displays in Sunday's FA Cup fifth round win against Burnley. Nicklas Bendtner could get a frontline spot and his teammate Johan Djourou believes he is a massive threat. "He's tall, he's quick, he's comfortable on the ball and that's a nightmare for defenders; the kind of player you don't want to be facing," said the Swiss defender, who could be ousted from the starting line-up by the return of Kolo Toure from a calf injury.
"He needs to believe in himself a little bit more. I think he's going to be unstoppable when he realises how much talent he has. It's going to be a difficult game but it's a trophy we are looking to win." Philippe Mexes will have the task of trying to stop the Arsenal strike assault, and, with their midfield dynamo Daniele de Rossi suspended, it is likely to be tough for the Italians. The French defender said: "Of the English teams, Arsenal are one of those who play the best football, but we must be aware we are stronger than them and that, at our best, we have every chance of going through."