ROME, March 11 – Both AS Roma and Arsenal have been hit by striker concerns ahead of their Champions League second round, second leg clash at the Stadio Olimpico here on Wednesday.Arsenal’s Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor has been ruled out already while Roma are sweating on the fitness of their emblematic striker Francesco Totti.
But while Roma are scrimping around to try to find fit attacking players, Arsenal are set to welcome back two young guns from the treatment table.
Brazilian-born Croatia striker Eduardo proved his fitness on Sunday following a hamstring problem by scoring a cracker in Arsenal’s FA Cup victory over Burnley while Theo Walcott made his first appearance since shoulder surgery in November in a 20-minute cameo.
It has all left Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feeling buoyed despite the absence of Adebayor, sidelined for a month with a hamstring problem.
"I haven’t made the team yet but Walcott and Eduardo will certainly be in the squad. The more resources you have the better it is and they are two guys who can score goals," Wenger said.
"We slowly have all our players coming back. That can be decisive because we are going into the final sprint."
Walcott himself admits he is not yet fit enough to start but he hopes to make an impact from the substitutes bench.
"I need a few more training sessions, a few more games coming off the bench and hopefully if I am doing well the boss will put me in," he said.
"I am just looking forward to another experience in Italy. In Arsenal training, you obviously donut want to injure your own players so you tend to be a little softer but matchdays are totally different.
"I still haven’t experienced getting clattered yet so that’s the next test."
Arsenal have a 1-0 lead to defend from the first leg two weeks ago, a game they largely dominated and could have won by a greater margin.
"We are going into this game with belief and extreme desire to qualify," added Wenger.
"The positive is we didn’t concede in the first leg but we know we cannot only go there and defend. We want at every opportunity to attack and try to score."
Scoring is something Roma have to do to have any chance of avoiding elimination.
And they are desperately hoping Totti will overcome the knee problem he has been suffering from all season.
"The test Francesco underwent (Monday) came up with a negative, and that’s a good thing," said the club’s physiotherapist Vito Scala.
"(Tuesday) he will try to train with the team, even if he feels pain. That would not be something to worry about because testing pain at this stage (of recuperation) is perfectly normal.
"I’m hopeful because I know Francesco and I know he will pull out all the stops to try to line up on Wednesday night."
Roma’s problems are not just confined to Totti, though, as there is also a fitness doubt over his usual replacement Mirko Vucinic while attacking midfielder Simone Perrotta is definitely out and midfield enforcer Daniele De Rossi is suspended.
There are also doubts surrounding goalkeeper Doni and midfielders Jeremy Menez, Alberto Aquilani and David Pizarro while Brazilian full-back Cicinho is out for the season with knee ligament damage.
It all points to an uphill battle for Roma, who must score, but France centre-back Philippe Mexes insists they must stay calm.
"It’s important not to rush things because we would risk conceding a goal on the counter-attack," he said.
"We need to play as we know how and the goal will take care of itself, everything depends on us."
Roma have been knocked out of the competition by English opposition in each of the last two seasons, although both times Manchester United were their conquerors.