Arsenal are set to travel to Serbia on Thursday for their third group game of the Europa League, as they look to uphold their 100% record in the competition this term. Zvezda are in top form in their domestic league, winning 10 of their 12 matches thus far, and remain unbeaten in the group at present. Arsenal are not enjoying such a flourishing campaign domestically, but with two wins from two they will be keen to keep up their run in Europe, and all three points today would all-but seal their place in the knock-out stages of the competition.
The North London side’s manager Arsene Wenger will be keen not to lose, having come under pressure thanks to a painful loss to Watford on Saturday evening, but the 67 year-old wont allow himself to prioritise Thursday’s encounter over Sunday’s Premier League tie with Everton, in which a failure to win would almost completely rule out our chances of challenging for the title, and will ultimately leave us with a big task in qualifying for the Champions League next term, through our league standing at least.
The Gunners will be expected to field a similar team to that which took on BATE Borisov last month, with some lesser experienced players being brought into the fold as part of Wenger’s rotation policy. Both Reiss Nelson and Maitland-Niles were left out of the starting line-up for the Under 23 side this week, and look certain to be involved in Belgrade. One player who may get an unlikely look in is Alexis Sanchez, having missed the weekend’s loss to Watford, but I expect he would be given further rest and kept in line to return against Everton come Sunday.
Holding Mertesacker Monreal
Nelson Elneny Willock Maitland-Niles
The majority of this side proved in travelling to Serbia that they had more than enough to come away with a well-earned victory, although the performance was far from perfect as they shipped in two goals.
Theo Walcott was in his element as he is on many midweek occasions, and he is a great shout to open proceedings once again this week. The speedster has racked up countless numbers of goals in Carling Cup, FA Cup and European encounters with many of those being held between Monday to Friday, and I believe his best performances may well come in evening encounters. The 11/2 (6.5) available for him to open the scoring looks great value to me, or you could go all-out for Theo to bag two goals on the night at a tasty 9/1 (10.0).
If you prefer to delve into the anytime goalscorer markets, I wouldn’t put you off investing in Per Mertesacker to add to his goal against the Hornets. The big German is deadly in the air, and at 10/1 (11.0) could profit you some tidy earnings should he manage to find the net in successive outings.
The banker of the evening however will surely be for an Arsenal win, with both teams to score. The Gunners to win and concede is available at 5/2 with Bet365.
Belgrade are no slouches at home, and in fact their defensive record in the Serbian Super Lig has seen them concede only one goal at home since the campaign begun, but their domestic championship is not quite on par with the Premier League, and I would be very surprised if we were to fail to score at least two goals. The 8/11 (1.73) on offer for us to score more than once is a little short for my betting tastes, but might be worth adding to an accumulator of sorts.
One outsider single which might be worth a shot is for Arsenal to be trailing at the half-term interval, and walk away with victory. This is one of my favourite bets due to the price, and the difficulty in predicting it correctly. I’ve landed it a number of times, and I’ll be wagering a few pennies on this outcome also. For those less experienced gamblers the market is called ‘Half-time full-time’ and the prediction will state ‘Belgrade-Arsenal’. This is currently priced at 20/1 (21.0).
What are your predictions for Thursday night’s Europa League tie? Should the weekend have dented my confidence in our side?