Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Tonight's Champions League Games

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Tonight's Champions League Games

Article excerpt

ARSENE Wenger is ready to give Theo Walcott a more prominent role as Arsenal implement their contingency plan for Thierry Henry's enforced absence.

Henry, who was already suspended for tonight's crucial Champions League showdown with Porto, could be sidelined until the New Year with the neck injury that kept him out of Saturday's 3-0 demolition of Tottenham.

No date has been set for the French striker's return and Wenger admits his absence will open the door for Walcott, who has been used sparingly since his arrival from Southampton in January.

"I know I will use Walcott because we have so many games coming up. You rotate a little more up front because you need the sharpness," he said.

"At the back you need a little more experience. He will play and that is good for him. Today he is a different player to six months ago.

"He is much stronger at one-onones and when going forward. He is much more decisive and is becoming a good finisher."

Walcott has been named in Arsenal's squad for Porto but the England marksman is unlikely to figure with Emmanuel Adebayor preferred for the lone striker's role.

The Group G clash has the potential to wreck Arsenal's campaign as defeat, coupled with victory for CSKA Moscow in the pool's other game, would send them crashing out of the Champions League. With their hopes of mounting a serious Premiership title challenge over, Arsenal need to stay in Europe to avoid another anti-climatic season.

In their favour is the knowledge a draw would see themselves and Porto progress to the knockout stages, but Wenger dismissed the suggestion the rivals will be looking to share the spoils.

"It's impossible to predict a 0-0 draw. We'll go out to win the game," he said. "If 10 minutes before the end it's 0-0 we certainly won't be throwing everyone into the box. You can't start a game playing for the draw.

I want us to be successful tomorrow and I'm sure we can be."

SIR Alex Ferguson yesterday joined Cristiano Ronaldo in a condemnation of Gareth Southgate's cheat allegations and insisted the Manchester United winger did not dive to win a penalty at Middlesbrough on Saturday. …

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