Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger watched his side beat SC Braga 6-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday and then revealed he expected to dream of nothing but Saturday’s trip to Sunderland.
The Frenchman was only half-joking as the Gunners have found it difficult to fight on two fronts in recent seasons, although they will travel to the north-east on the back of three straight Premier League successes.
Arsenal have struggled at the Stadium of Light on their last two visits, earning a point with an injury-time Cesc Fabregas goal in 2008 before suffering a 1-0 defeat thanks to Darren Bent’s winner last November.
Wenger was hopeful his side, who have not won a major trophy since 2005, would be able to improve on that record in this weekend’s match.
“Everywhere we go we try to win,” he said. “It will be a big game, but we’ll be focused. It’s important for our season as well that we’re capable of going from Champions League to championship and vice versa.
“From Wednesday night to Saturday it’s short but we can rotate a little bit,” the manager added.
Wenger’s options have been limited to injuries to Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott but he could freshen up his starting line-up by recalling Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Eboue, Denilson or Carlos Vela, who were all on the bench against Braga, with Mexico forward Vela coming on and scoring twice.
Sunderland have a formidable home record — they have lost just once, to Manchester United, in the past nine months — and manager Steve Bruce has called on an expected 40,000-plus crowd to create another intimidating atmosphere after supporters played a significant role in last month’s 1-0 win over big-spending Manchester City.
“The fans can make all the difference for us,” Bruce said. “They certainly did against City, and what an atmosphere it was.
“They’ve made the Stadium of Light one of the most intimidating places to come for away games and we need to make full use of that advantage. It’d be great to see a packed stadium rocking and I’d urge our fans to get down.
“We’ll be trying our level best to put on a show for them.
“Of course it won’t be easy but the players are up for the challenge. We know Arsenal are an excellent side but I’m focused on what we do rather than the opposition. When the crowd get going the noise is phenomenal and we need them there in numbers replicating that again this weekend.”
Bruce is expected to hand a full debut to 13 million pounds (20 million dollars) record signing Asamoah Gyan, who came off the bench to score at Wigan last week.
Wenger watched the forward score three goals for Ghana in the World Cup finals but had not been tempted to make a bid himself.
“I looked at him, especially in the World Cup,” he said. “He had periods at Rennes last season when he didn’t play, and others where he was absolutely outstanding. When I watched him in the World Cup I found him interesting and a good player.
“But, at the time, we already had our strikers so I was not looking for him,” Wenger explained.
Sunderland are without skipper Lee Cattermole, who starts a two-match suspension following his second sending off of the season at Wigan.
Defender Michael Turner is sidelined with an ankle problem but Ghana international John Mensah is pushing for a start.
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