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Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00

Fenerbahce v Arsenal preview: Arsene Wenger admits Gunners dare not lose in Turkey

Manager calls for big performance in Champions League play-off
by Greg Leedham

Football: Arsene Wenger admitted that Arsenal are desperate for a positive result in Wednesday night's Champions League clash with Fenerbahce to make sure last season’s hard work does not go to waste.

The Gunners’ bid to finish in the top four last term went right down to the final day of the season when a 1-0 win at Newcastle ensured they went into the hat for the Champions League play-offs.

Now, only Fenerbahce stand between Arsenal and a place in European football’s premier competition, though they enter this evening’s first leg in Istanbul amid an injury crisis and off the back of a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa in Saturday’s Premier League opener.

Wenger admitted his side can’t afford any slip-ups. “We fought very hard last season to be in the top four and this game has a vital importance,” he said.

“On the back of our defeat against Aston Villa, it’s important as well to bounce back straight away.

“To be part of the top level — that is for us the most important thing. When you are a football player, you want to play at the top level and that’s what the Champions League is about.

“We try to win everywhere we go. That is the only target we have to set ourselves. We respect Fenerbahce highly, but in the history of our club we have gone everywhere, all over, and always had a desire to win and that is what we will do again.”

Arsenal have been handed a number of fitness boosts ahead of the match.

Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky all trained on Tuesday morning.

There had been fears over the fitness of those individuals, especially full-back Sagna who landed awkwardly towards the end of the game on Saturday, but they could all play some part in Turkey.

England’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a certainty to miss out after suffering a serious knee injury in the defeat to Villa, with some reports suggesting the 20-year-old could be ruled out for up to six months.

If Arsenal do reach the group stages there will be even more calls for new faces in north London, after a bid for Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye was rejected on Monday.

The move for the France international is the latest failed transfer attempt during a frustrating summer for Wenger, who has also looked at signing the likes of Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain with no success to date.

The home fans were vocal during the Villa game in their suggestions that new players are required, with Arsenal believed to have enough funds available to try and attract marquee names such as Rooney or Suarez.

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