Using the same philosophy that allowed Americans Frankie Simek and Danny Karbassiyoon to get first-team appearances with the Gunners two years ago, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger plans on sticking with youngsters against Chelsea in the first all-London League Cup final on Sunday at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium (TV: Setanta Sports USA, live, 9 am ET).
Wenger has used the League Cup, the least prestigious of the four
competitions in which Arsenal is engaged, as a testing ground for his
youngsters, and the Frenchman sees no point in changing after the young
Gunners knocked off Liverpool and Tottenham en route to the final.
"I believe the boys have the right mental strengths to finish the job,"
he said. "They have already shown that."
Wenger could start as many as four teenagers: Francesc
Fabregas, Theo Walcott,
Denilson and Armand Traore. Arsenal's youth
policy is in sharp contrast to Chelsea, which has spent hundreds of
millions of pounds on buying up talent from other clubs.
Like Arsenal, Chelsea is engaged in three cup competitions, in
addition to the EPL, but they have taken their toll. Four days after
losing Khalid Boulahrouz with
a dislocated shoulder in FA Cup action, captain John Terry went down with an ankle
injury against Porto in Wednesday's Champions League game and his
replacement, winger Arjen Robben,
was later injured.
"Every day I lose a player," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho lamented. "We have
just one central defender again. We have to play Arsenal with [Michael] Essien and [Ricardo] Carvalho at the back
we have no choice."
GERMANY. Stuttgart looks
to continue its strong second-half run when it hosts Hertha Berlin on
Friday (TV: GolTV, live, 2:25 pm ET). Stuttgart, which also faces
Hertha next Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the German Cup, has won
four straight games to climb into second place, five points behind
Schalke 04 but ahead of Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen. Stuttgart is
led by 21-year-old Mario Gomez,
the Bundesliga's leading scorer with 13 goals. Gomez, who was born in
Germany to a Spanish father and German mother, has attracted the
interest of foreign clubs with his sensational play, but he insists
he'll stay at Stuttgart until the end of his contract in 2011.
ITALY. Ronaldo will be out to show that last
Saturday's display at Siena was no fluke when AC Milan hosts Sampdoria
on Sunday (TV: GolTV, delay, 5 pm ET). Il Fenomeno scored two goals and
set up a third in Milan's 4-3 win at Siena, erasing doubts that he
could still play at the top level. Unwanted at Real Madrid, Ronaldo was
sold to Milan for $9.8 million during the January transfer window. "We
all knew he was a great player," said Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti. "What came as such
a big surprise to
us was how quickly he has managed to slip back into the Italian
championship." The Brazilian's return to form comes as Milan continues
its push to
climb into Serie A's top four, which would earn it a berth in next
season's Champions League. Milan has won six of its last seven league
matches to climb to sixth place. It would be in fourth but for its
eight-point penalty for its role in Italian soccer's match-fixing
SPAIN. Now needing a
"miracle," as one sports daily put it, to keep its Champions League
hopes alive after a 2-1 loss to Liverpool at home on Wednesday,
Barcelona turns its attention to salvaging its sputtering La Liga
campaign. Barca goes into its game against on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday
(TV: GolTV, live, 3 pm) tied with Sevilla for the league league but
with a game in hand on Sevilla, Valencia and Real Madrid, which are
four points behind. By contrast, Sevilla, Valencia and Real Madrid all
earned big results in Europe this week. Real Madrid won't have David Beckham, who had a huge game
in its 3-2 win over Bayern, against Atletico Madrid on Saturday (TV:
World Sport HD, live, 4 pm). Beckham is suspended after picking up a
red card against Real Betis last Saturday.