OPINION By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Arsene Wenger is likely to resist the temptation to fast-track Danny Welbeck into the Arsenal team for Tuesday’s mouthwatering Champions League showdown against all-conquering Barcelona.
The striker followed up his dramatic winner on his comeback against Leicester with an impressive display on the left flank against Hull on Saturday.
But a match of such intensity against the Champions League holders and hot favourites is likely to have come too soon for Welbeck, who is effectively vying for a position on one of the flanks.
Wenger made nine changes for Saturday’s goal-less FA Cup draw against Hull on Saturday and is set to make a similar number for the first leg of the last-16 tie at Emirates Stadium.
Of the side who peppered Hull’s goal but could not find a breakthrough, only Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker – the latest Arsenal team news is that Gabriel is still injured – are guaranteed to start against Barcelona.
The holy trinity of Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech and Mesut Ozil are set to be restored to the starting X1, as well as Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin.
Sanchez has been well below par over the last month but Wenger will hope the combination of a landmark fixture and opponents for whom he spent three successful seasons can reignite the Chilean.
The position in the team that is most up for grabs is on the right flank, which is a four-horse race between Welbeck, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Campbell.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has started the last two Premier League matches but, with Arsenal likely to play mainly on the counter-attack, Wenger might consider Walcott’s electric pace to be more valuable.
Arsenal (possible): Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud.