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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Countdown to Villarreal v Arsenal
All the latest news and comments in the build-up to Arsenal's second-leg match at El Madrigal as they aim to reach the Champions League final for the first time.

UPDATES FROM FANS AND OUR REPORTERS

1811: Jose, Spain, via-email:
I can't believe you English are debating about the Englishness of Arsenal. Have you realised that most of Villarreal players are Argentines and Uruguayans? I can't see any problem with that...

1746: Mike, Spain, via-email:
I like the way "the English team" play, but I have to say coming from a town of 50,000, Villareal are doing great. I hope they go all the way and crush the evil Catalans in the final.

1742: Johnny, England, via-email:
Yes...An English team....I bet these idiots saying that we are not an English club are the same idiots who cheered on Strauss, Pietersen and others onto Ashes glory last year...

1737: Sol, England, via-email:
Of the 24 youth team players at Arsenal 18 are English. We have the best English team in living memory - that has a lot to do with the influence of players like Henry. It just so happens that Arsene doesn't look at passports when he chooses his current team.

1724: Richard, England, via-email:
Arsenal are a joke, if every English team was as dedicated to giving young English lads a chance we wouldn't have a national team. We wouldn't have a single English player. I'm a true Englishman and as such I say "Come on Villarreal!"

1719: Paul, England, via-email:
It'll be nice to see a true English team participate in next season's Champions League. Come on Spurs, we're almost there.

1704: Martin, England, via-email:
Stays in English hands, Scott? Does this mean that Arsenal might risk an English player on the pitch tonight? They must be confident of winning!

1648: Scott, USA, via-email
Ahoy from across the pond! Although football isn't as big over here, the crowds are beginning to gather in the pubs to watch the game. Lots of Gunner fans hoping the Cup stays in English hands! Go Arsenal!

1600: Weather update
Temperatures are as high as 21 Deg C as the tension starts to rise ahead of kick-off.

1531: Emmanuel Essien, Nigeria, via-email
"After my last song worked so well I would like to write another one - Once more, Arsenal, once more challenge these warriors, go forth with head held high, with proud shoulders, proud shoulders bearing arms, to grasp in your arms that which is only yours to win. 'One nil', cry the crowd, 'one-nil to the Arsenal, that's two-nil on aggregate and a final place in Paris."

1452: Stevie B, England
"With the squirrel unable to fly out for the game, it is left to a certain Thierry Henry to send us all nuts."

1436: Rowan, via e-mail
"Trying to write a 4000 word essay by tomorrow, the trouble is I keep thinking about the match."

1328: Paul Robinson, via e-mail
"If we start at a high tempo and we squeeze Riquelme out the game, I'm sure we can triumph. Gilberto is as important tonight as Henry is. Come on you Gooners!!"

1315: N Allen, via e-mail
"I think football is a great game, but don't you think we have all forgotten that it's a game? My girlfriend is an Arsenal supporter, but like all your other correspondents, she's got herself in such a state that she doesn't know that I exist anymore."

"PS (Incidentally I support Luton, and she can't understand that either!)"

1304: Travis, via e-mail
"Will be watching the game this evening, and like most neutrals will be praying to see Henry v Ronaldinho in the final."

1300: Tony, via e-mail
"From one 'Red' to another... good luck, we (Liverpool) did it last year and I would like to see you have some luck this year. Remember we won our semi 1-0 against Chelski. Keep the European Cup in the UK please!"

1255: Steve Stevenson, via email
"Am near El Madrigal at the moment and the atmosphere is electric! Come on the Gunners!"

1250: Jan Stefanowicz, via email
"As a Spurs fan I say 'come on Arsenal, let's see you win!' That way you will be focused on the final - where Barca will take you apart... and we will land 4th spot!"

1230: Stuart, Paris, via email
"I am in Paris now and outside the Stade de France, the venue where the final will be played. Lets hope that Arsenal will be there on 17 May."

1215: BBC SPORT
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has made it clear that he wants his team to push forward and try to win the game.

1205: Denis, Russia
"I will be watching the match very late at night today as Russia is three hours in front of UK time. It will be an extra long and super nervous day for me. I just hope the Arsenal boys can do it."

1155: Chris, England, via email
"Sorry, but as a lifelong Spurs fan I have a watchful eye on our progression to next year's Champions League, so I am hoping and praying that Villarreal can do it for us Spurs fans at El Madrigal."

1145: Weather update
It is a sunny day in Spain and Arsenal fans travelling over for the match can expect temperatures as high as 21 Deg C.

1116: Barry Pritchard, UK, via email
"I have not been this nervous since that fateful night at Anfield in 1989, when I was still a spotty teenage. Today is far worse though, as I now live in Manchester and no-one up here really cares one way or the other."

1048: Josh, England, via email
"I did not sleep a wink last night - my nerves are shot and I cannot even begin to think about working today! I think I might tell my boss I am ill and go home. I hope he does not read this though!"

1023: Olly Tobias, Herts
"Just about to leave for the airport. Tension is starting to build, but I've every confidence that we can go out there and complete the job."

1020: Spanish journalist Juan Castro
"I think Arsenal are clearly the favourites, they have the better team and are playing very well. It will be difficult for Villarreal."

1000: Nick Lawley, via email:
"Arsenal have got a 73% chance of coming out on top from the complex calculations I have made. There is also an 84% chance of us seeing a goal from that Thierry Henry fellow."

0945: Hoki Tse, Miami, Florida, USA, via email
"It is nearly five in the morning here and I can hardly fall asleep. I think all the Gooners are becoming more and more nervous as today is the most important day in Arsenal's History."

0937: Paul Kerr, Rangers fan, Scotland, via email:
"Arsenal should not underestimate Villarreal especially at El Madrigal. However, a poor Rangers side made them look ordinary for large spells so Arsenal should have enough to win."

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FACT:
Arsenal have not conceded a goal in European competition for 829 minutes - a record for the Champions League.

0914: Richard Sole, UK, via email
"Just landed in Spain, the wonders of modern technology! The weather is not bad and I am looking forward to an Arsenal master class."

0900 James Pleat (Tottenham supporter), via email:
"I am wearing my Villarreal kit and sitting draped in the Spanish Flag. Come on Villarreal."

0850: Lucy Gratton, London, via email
"Eek....starting to get a bit nervous now - up the Gunners!"

0845: Tim Handley, editor BBC News
"We are looking for an Arsenal supporter married to a Spaniard for a piece to appear on Tuesday evening's television news. Can you help?"

0837: Michael Graversen, England, via email
"Come on you Gooners. This is the one we have all been waiting years for and I have a good feeling about the match. Keep Juan Roman Riquelme quiet and half the battle is won."

0825: Mike Ingham, BBC Radio Five Live football correspondent in Spain
"It is so easy to be duped into complacency here. The facilities are moderate, the team are half-way down the Spanish league and the ground, with a capacity of 23,000, accommodates half the town."

0806: Brandon Cavilla, Gibraltar via email
"Come on Arsenal! We are going to go to the final in France and we will play Barcelona in the final."

0754: Tate, Australia, via email
"Sol Campbell will be hungry to show that he should be in England's World Cup side, therefore will be a rock for Arsenal tonight."

0630: Matthew Williams, BBC Radio Five Live
"It is a pretty, pleasant and cloudless morning. It was blowing a gale on Monday. Villarreal itself is tiny, there is only really one hotel in the town and for that reason most of the supporters and the Arsenal team are staying in Valencia."

PREDICTIONS

I am in Villarreal and enjoying the atmosphere. I think it will finish 2-0 to Arsenal.
Raj, Spain

I think Arsenal will get thumped 3-0, mainly due to complacency. Watch Diego Forlan bag a brace along with a free-kick from Juan Roman Riquelme.
Eli Cash , Fukuoka, Japan

"I can't see Villarreal posing too much of a threat considering their previous performance and their form in La Liga. Where was this brilliant attacking force I had read so much about? Oh Sorry, that was Arsenal. Confidently predict 1-0 to the Arsenal!"
Paul Hawkins, England

"It is clear that Villarreal will triumph, beating Arsenal 2-0. I see Arsenal coming to defend. The best way to defend is to attack so Villarreal will make and seize their opportunities to stop Arsenal reaching the final."
Shamsideen, Nigeria

"Arsenal will win the match 2-1. The reason? They need a decent farewell match to honour the great Dennis Bergkamp. Make London and Holland proud and let Dennis play in the final in Paris!"
Richard, Netherlands

"Villarreal will go into the final as they will humble Arsenal, beating them 2-0."
Evancie Afati, Malawi

"Attack is the best way to defend. We expect Arsenal to go all way and attack from the blast of the first whistle. Scoreline - Villarreal 0 Arsenal 1."
Ola Oladunjoye, Nigeria

NEWS UPDATES

Team news: Arsenal are without defender Philippe Senderos, with Sol Campbell coming in to replace him. It will be Campbell's first appearance since breaking his nose against Portsmouth on 12 April.

Bolivian defender Juan Manuel Pena is included in Villarreal's squad after recovering from a knee ligament injury.

Man in the middle: Russian Valentin Ivanov is the man in the middle for the match. Ivanov is a teacher from Moscow who refereed the 2003 Confederations Cup final in France.

Weather news: The sun was shining early on Tuesday in Castellon de la Plana, the nearest town of any size to Villarreal's El Madrigal stadium. The temperature was 13 Deg C as dawn broke with good visibility and very little wind.

Newspaper headlines: Most British newspapers focused on manager Arsene Wenger's decision to start with Sol Campbell.

The Sun has the headline 'King Conk' in reference to Campbell's return after his broken nose, with the further comment 'Sol to keep our noses in front says Arsene'.

The Daily Mail claims that Arsenal are taking a 'Sol gamble', a theme echoed by The Guardian.

The Daily Mirror picks up on comments made by Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini, who has accused Wenger of double standards.

Under the headline 'You're a loser Wenger', the story claims Pellegrini is unhappy that Arsenal failed to kick the ball out of touch against his team last week only for Wenger to then criticise Tottenham after a similar situation on Saturday.

The Daily Express leads on a the same theme, claiming that the Villarreal boss has "lit the blue touchpaper" by accusing Wenger of "hypocrisy".

MANAGERS, PLAYERS AND PUNDITS

  • Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg on his injury problems
    "I play with a lot of pain but sometimes as a footballer you have to do that.

    "It's a lot of pain in the foot when I twist or turn. The foot swells and fills up with blood and we have to 'tap out' after every match.

    "It's painful but the pain is not so bad that I cannot play, but of course it's not good.

    "I feel pain maybe 10 times during a match but that's pain I am willing to take."

  • Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
    "We have shown character against Juventus and Real Madrid and we need it again.

    "It will be a more intimidating atmosphere because it is a small stadium and therefore I feel the heat will be higher.

    "They will play the same way but will be less timid and Juan Roman Riquelme will be more influential.

    "He shows more personality, character and decisiveness at home."

  • Villarreal striker Diego Forlan
    "There are only 90 minutes to go to the final and we need to give our all.

    "Hopefully we can perform much better at home than we did at Highbury.

    "We were not happy to lose but have still got a chance - we must be optimistic."

  • Villarreal playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme
    "If we don't reach the Champions League final no one will remember us.

    "We are well aware that in the future only the winners are remembered and we certainly don't want to be forgotten.

    "The further you go in this competition the more difficult and beautiful it becomes.

    "We know that if we play a good game we have a chance of going to the final."




  • SEE ALSO
    Villarreal v Arsenal
    24 Apr 06 |  Europe
    Villarreal match reaction
    25 Apr 06 |  Europe
    Arsenal 1-0 Villarreal
    19 Apr 06 |  Europe


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