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Wenger believes in Premier League
Published : 15 Sep 2010 07:30:00
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains the Premier League is still the "strongest in Europe". The Gunners kick off their Champions League campaign tonight against Portuguese outfit Braga at Emirates Stadium. With Shakhtar Donetsk and Partizan Belgrade making up the other opposition in Group H, Arsenal - quarter-finalists or better for three seasons in a row - are expected to negotiate safe passage into the knockout stages. However, in 2010, Chelsea and Manchester United also failed to reach the last four, leaving England without a representative in the semi-finals for the first time since 2002/2003. Indeed, the clash between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan was the only final after 2005 not to contain an English team. Tottenham, who drew their opening game 2-2 away to Werder Bremen, have joined the Premier League's European elite this season. Wenger, whose side reached the Champions League final in 2006, maintains there is no reason not to be confident of a home representative at Wembley in 2011. "The Premier League is still the strongest in Europe," Wenger said. "What happened last season was an accident, and we have to show that this year. "We went out against Barcelona, who were better than us over the two games. We have to come back and show we can compete with them." "Last season's final was Inter Milan against Bayern Munich, which was completely unexpected, so it's open - but you have 10 teams in Europe who can hope to be in the final." The Gunners boss continued: "The best-equipped teams would be the ones who are always there, meaning Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, because we have always been there in the last 10 years but maybe Tottenham can create a surprise. "What you realise quickly in the Champions League is that every weakness you have you can pay for it. "The higher the level, the quicker you are punished where you are weak." Midfielder Abou Diaby (ankle) has also been ruled out of the trip to Sunderland at the weekend but there is a chance centre-back Thomas Vermaelen could return from an Achilles injury. With Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie still sidelined, Marouane Chamakh is set to lead the Arsenal attack. The summer signing from Bordeaux has netted two goal in four appearances, impressing his new boss. "He has done very well," said Wenger. "I believe he has a love for the physical game, a love for challenges. "He loves contact and is good in the air. "Chamakh is an intelligent player as well and he has adapted quickly because he is a real team player. He likes to work for the team, so even if he misses one or two things, he does so much that overall his contribution is very high."