Sevilla face tough debut against in-form Arsenal

LONDON, Sep 18 (Reuters) UEFA Cup holders Sevilla look set for a baptism of fire when they make their Champions League debut against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium today.

The Spaniards are making their second visit to north London in just over five months after drawing 2-2 with Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Cup in April. It is unlikely their visit to Arsenal will begin quite like their trip to Spurs.

Already 2-1 up from the first leg of their quarter-final tie, Sevilla scored twice in the opening eight minutes to go 4-1 ahead on aggregate at White Hart Lane, eventually advancing 4-3 and going on to win the UEFA Cup for the second successive season.

Former Spurs striker Frederic Kanoute scored Sevilla's second that night and he is currently in blistering form this season, scoring twice on Sunday as Sevilla beat Recreativo Huelva 4-1 to take second spot in La Liga behind champions Real Madrid.

Kanoute will lead Sevilla's attacking line against his old rivals with considerable help from Russian Alexander Kerzhakov, who also scored twice on Sunday and missed a penalty.

He makes his second visit to London in a week after being part of the Russia team beaten 3-0 by England at Wembley last Wednesday.

Buoyed this season's form, Sevilla are confident they can cause Arsenal a few problems.

They hammered AEK Athens 6-1 on aggregate to qualify for the group stage and have netted eight goals in their two Primera Liga matches played so far.

Centre back Javi Navarro is sidelined with an injury and Brazilian midfielder Adriano Correia is also missing, but Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano, French defender Julien Escude, and German fullback Andreas Hinkel all return.

UNBEATEN START Arsenal go into the game after a 3-1 win at Tottenham on Saturday which preserved their unbeaten start to the season and saw them rise to the top of the Premier League for the first time since October 2004.

The principal architect of Arsenal's win was 20-year-old Spaniard Cesc Fabregas who scored an outstanding goal -- his fifth of the season -- and whose passing and movement in midfield was excellent.

Arsenal ooze confidence and style and although Sevilla are sure to test a back line missing the injured William Gallas (groin) and Emmanuel Eboue (ankle), Arsenal start as clear favourites to began their 10th successive season in the Champions League proper with a victory.

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger is taking nothing for granted and told the UEFA Web site ( ''I know Sevilla very well and I think they are one of the best teams in Europe.'' Sevilla boss Juande Ramos, touted as a possible future manager of Spurs, is under no illusions about Wednesday's task.

''I hope we are ready, in theory we should be having won the UEFA Cup twice. We will see in our first few games just how ready we are,'' he told reporters.

Probable teams: Arsenal: 24-Manuel Almunia; 3-Bacary Sagna, 5-Kolo Toure, 6-Philippe Senderos, 22-Gael Clichy; 13-Aleksandr Hleb, 4-Cesc Fabregas, 19-Gilberto Silva, 7-Tomas Rosicky; 25-Emmanuel Adebayor, 11-Robin van Persie Sevilla: 1-Andres Palop; 4-Daniel Alves, 14-Julien Escude, 23-Khalid Boulahrouz, 3-Ivica Dragutinovic; 7-Jesus Navas, 21-Seydou Keita, 11-Renato, 5-Duda; 10-Luis Fabiano, 12-Frederic Kanoute.

Referee: Peter Frojdfeldt (Sweden) Reuters TB DB1006

Story first published: Tuesday, September 18, 2007, 11:07 [IST]
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