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Everton on the cusp of Europa progress

Everton about an hour ago
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By ESPN Staff
Oct 21, 2008

Arsenal captaincy adds no pressure, says Almunia

Arsenal's stand-in captain Manuel Almunia insists he will not feel any extra pressure when he leads the team out on Tuesday night to play Fenerbahce in the Champions League.

The goalkeeper has been given the honour after injuries forced club skipper William Gallas and Kolo Toure out of the match in the intimidating Sukru Saracoglu stadium.

Almunia will experience his first match in front of the fanatical Turkish supporters but was keen to stress it was business as usual for him and the team.

"I am very proud. It is a great thing to wear the armband. I am a bit surprised because I am the oldest player on the pitch," said the 31-year-old Spaniard, who 12 months ago was not even first choice.

"It is nice. It means that I am doing things well and I have the confidence of the boss.

"I will try to defend Arsenal 100% and try to help my team in every aspect.

"The only pressure is as it is on a Saturday every weekend - to defend my team.

"I have more responsibility being captain but there is no pressure.

"It is a pride for me. I hope I can support my team from behind and command my defenders very well to get the points."

Much has been made of the reception Arsenal can expect inside the ground but Almunia insists it is up to the team to quell the noise with an assured performance.

"We expect a team like Fenerbahce to put some pressure on us in the first 15 minutes with all the crowd behind them," he said.

"But I think we have the experience enough to maintain our calm, to play our football and defend very well.

"It will be crucial for us to keep a clean sheet."

Manager Arsene Wenger is looking to Mikael Silvestre to lead an inexperienced defence, which has been shorn of the services of Gallas, Toure and Bacary Sagna.

Silvestre, in only his second appearance since a summer move from Manchester United, is likely to line up alongside Emmanuel Eboue, Alex Song and Gael Clichy.

It is the defence that finished the 3-1 victory over Everton at the weekend after Toure went off with a shoulder ligament problem.

Silvestre, who with 70 Champions League appearances has 15 more than his three defensive colleagues put together, is the man Wenger will look to to hold things together.

"I am happy to have him. He is the one who can lead the defence and the team," said the manager of the 31-year-old Frenchman.

"He has experience. I believe he has played on every single pitch in Europe.

"He is a very professional guy and I am confident he will be the guide of the back four."

Fenerbahce have a formidable European record at home, having not been beaten in 15 matches and enjoying an eight-game winning streak that only ended with a goalless draw against Dynamo Kiev last time out.

However, they have begun this season poorly under Spain's European Championship-winning coach Luis Aragones and are only 10th in the Turkish Super Lig, and bottom of Group G in the Champions League with just one point.

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