LONDON, England, August 26 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has promised to pick a strong team as his side look to rubber-stamp qualification for the Champions League group phase against Fenerbahce on Tuesday.
The London club swept to an impressive 3-0 victory in the first leg of their play-off tie in Istanbul last week, leaving them on the brink of taking a place in the group stage for the 16th successive season.
Arsenal also have a high-profile derby against Tottenham Hotspur next weekend to think about, but Wenger does not want to take any chances when Ersun Yanal’s side visit the Emirates Stadium.
“We have made a big step, but it’s not over the line. Now we want to finish the job, because that is a big part of our season,” he said.
“The group stage of the Champions League is highly important. I will not rest players on Tuesday night, certainly not.”
Wenger was speaking after his side’s 3-1 victory at Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday.
The Frenchman came in for heavy criticism after a shock loss at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, but he has been encouraged by his side’s reaction in their two subsequent games.
Wenger continues to be dogged by questions about his failure to act in the transfer market, but he has been at pains to underline the importance of the players who are already at the club.
He was particularly eager to emphasise the contribution of Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who was named man of the match in the games against Fenerbahce and Fulham.
“Ramsey is a young player. A year ago he was highly under scrutiny and people had major doubts,” he said.
“This guy deserves huge credit for having moved forward the way he did and we deserve some as well, because we continued to develop him and believe in him.”
Wenger will definitely be without winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who damaged his knee in the 3-1 loss to Villa, but the Frenchman reported no fresh injury concerns after the victory at Fulham.
Fenerbahce manager Yanal is expected to name his strongest possible starting XI, having rested a number of first-choice players in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Eskisehirspor in the Turkish Super Lig.
Joseph Yobo, Michal Kadlec, Emre, Mehmet Topal and striker Moussa Sow are among the players hoping to return for last season’s Europa League semi-finalists.
Arsenal have only lost at home by a three-goal margin twice in continental competition in the last 50 years, and Fenerbahce have only mustered three goals in their eight previous visits to England.
The Turkish giants also know that even if they produce an improbable turnaround, they could still be barred from the group phase, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport due to decide on their appeal against a two-year European ban for match-fixing on Wednesday.