London: Arsenal is in crisis mode as it visits Udinese for the second leg of a Champions League playoff on Wednesday, hoping last week's 1-0 win can help keep alive its streak of 13 consecutive group-stage appearances in the top European competition.
The Gunners have managed only one point from two English Premier League matches — including its first home loss to Liverpool in 11 years — and manager Arsene Wenger was given a two-match touchline ban on Monday for breaching the terms of a previous suspension during the opening leg against Udinese.
With former captain Cesc Fabregas having transferred to Barcelona, it's a mystery whether midfielder Samir Nasri will start, which would make him cup-tied and possibly prevent a rumored transfer to Manchester City.
"We have to be positive because Udinese have to score two goals," said 18-year-old defender Ignasi Miquel. "We have to be positive, give 100 percent and, if we do that, I am sure we can win it."
Meanwhile, with Serie A not due to start until this weekend, Udinese is completely focused on qualifying for the group stage for just the second time.
"Arsenal is an unforgiving squad, so the match must be approached calmly, without nervousness, and without thinking about how we need two goals to reach the group phase — otherwise we'll risk falling into a puddle," said Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin.
Last week, England forward Theo Walcott scored the only goal of an open and entertaining first leg after four minutes in north London. However, Udinese created several chances, including a free kick from captain Antonio Di Natale that banged off the crossbar.
"We only suffered in the first 10 minutes when we didn't play like we know how to, then you saw the real Udinese," said Di Natale, who led Serie A in scoring the past two seasons with a total of 57 goals.
With Antonio Floro Flores and Paulo Barreto still unavailable, Udinese's only reserve forward remains German Denis — who will transfer to Atalanta after the match.
The northeastern Italian squad's only lineup question is at left back. Maurizio Domizzi was out and Brazilian defender Neuton struggled to contain Walcott in the opening leg, so Guidolin could use veteran Giovanni Pasquale.
Arsenal's new captain, Robin van Persie, returns from suspension, and Alex Song and Gervinho — who served league suspensions in the loss to Liverpool — are also back.
Wenger had been banned for the first leg for comments made about the referee following last season's Champions League elimination by Barcelona. However, he was seen passing on instructions to the bench through coach Boro Primorac, who sat alongside the manager in the stands.
UEFA ruled that was a breach of its rules, and banned Wenger from both the second leg against Udinese and his next European fixture. Arsenal was also fined €10,000 ($14,400) for "improper conduct by its officials."
Arsenal appealed Wenger's suspension and UEFA was due to decide later Tuesday whether to postpone the sanctions until the appeal can be considered, which could allow the manager to patrol the touchline against Udinese.