Defence the key as Wenger plans for United showdown | sports | Hindustan Times
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Defence the key as Wenger plans for United showdown

sports Updated: May 03, 2009 09:50 IST
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Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal's Champions League fate will be determined by their ability to shut out Manchester United's galaxy of attacking stars.

Nicklas Bendtner's brace and Mexican youngster Carlos Vela's first ever Premier League goal helped Arsenal cruise to a 3-0 win at Portsmouth on Saturday and provided the perfect boost ahead of Tuesday's semi-final second-leg clash with Manchester United.

Arsenal must overturn a one-goal deficit and cannot afford to allow Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and company to snatch a crucial away goal.

But Wenger's side have not conceded at the Emirates Stadium in the league since December 21 and the Frenchman hopes a clean sheet against the European champions will provide the foundation for a memorable victory.

Wenger, who rested eight first-team players from the 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, said: "Our next game is a big one but we will be ready and you will see a very strong Arsenal team.

"I do not say we are happy with a 1-0 because you can never say you are happy after a defeat, but we are still only half-way and at the Emirates we have a good opportunity to beat them.

"We have a good defensive record at the Emirates and in the Premier League Manchester United have suffered in away games.

"We can have an attacking style at home without conceding goals and that is what we want to do on Tuesday.

"I believe in the strength of character in this team and there is a desire to go through - that will certainly be a huge motivation."

Wenger has already lost Croatian Eduardo to yet another injury while Robin van Persie and defender Mikael Silvestre are serious doubts.

But, with Bendtner leading the line at Fratton Park, Wenger has been given some food for thought as the Danish international grabbed his first against Portsmouth with a header that squirmed through the hands of David James.

Bendtner, a second-half substitute in the game at Old Trafford, had a second and his 13th of the season from the penalty spot after Andrey Arshavin was adjudged to have been brought down by Sean Davis.

Vela completed the rout in the second half with a fine finish after receiving Arshavin's pass.

Arshavin is unable to face United after playing for Zenit St Petersburg in Europe this season and Wenger added: "I have not decided on my team for Tuesday, some could play from the win at Portsmouth, I do not know.

"I have always believed in Nicklas Bendtner. I think he is developing very well and he showed that with his performance."

Portsmouth, who lost defender Noe Pamarot to a red card late on, are still flirting with relegation in the bottom half of the Premier League as they were unable to seal the three points to guarantee them safety.

Nwankwo Kanu and John Utaka spurned fine chances just after the break to lift their side back into the contest and with three games remaining the south coast side could still conceivably go down.

Paul Hart's side have lost just three of their last 11 games and are seven points above the drop-zone but have a tricky trip to fellow strugglers Blackburn next weekend.

Hart said: "I have spoken to Arsene Wenger and he thinks we have got enough points but I am not so confident, I think we need one more win maybe.

"The big difference between the sides was that they took their chances and we did not.

"We made some changes at half-time to try and get back into the game and created more chances but we could not take them."