Arsenal are in faraway Azerbaijan for our second Europa League Group Stage game against Qarabag, with the Gunners aiming to get their 8th win in a row in all competitions. Unai Emery is taking this competition very seriously and has taken nearly a full squad on the five and a half hour flight taking them 2,500 miles to the very edge of Europe.
Most of us are expecting this to be a pushover but there is no such thing as an easy game any more as we discovered last year when we lost at home to the minnows Ostersunds, but I am not expectiing any embarrassments like that under Emery. But I do have to tell you that Qarabag are joint top of their League after going the first six League games unbeaten. Here is their record so far…
But in Europe they have not been so successful, they were knocked out of the Champions League Qualifiers by BATE Borisov and only scraped through to thee Europa League Group by beating Sherriff, and their opening Group Game ended in a 2-0 defeat to Sporting Lisbon, who should qualify for the knockouts alongside us. We should beat Qarabag just as easily….
As for team news, we have Petr Cech, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Dinos Mavropanos and Laurent Koscielny out injured and there are two other first teamers that are left behind in London along with the political probems wth Mkhitaryan. As Emery said: “I explained first, for Mkhitaryan, why he cannot play tomorrow. Monday and Tuesday, Aubameyang was sick and he cannot travel to play tomorrow. Aaron Ramsey asked me if he can stay in London because his wife is pregnant and they are waiting on the doctors.” But the good news is that Sokratis and Kolasinac are back in the squad and should play a part today.
So with that knowledge here is my line-up prediction for this evening….
Lichtsteiner – Holding – Sokratis – Kolasinac
Elneny – Torreira – Guendouzi
Iwobi – Lacazette – Welbeck
I am worried that the team will be knackered when it comes to playing Fulham on Sunday, but that is because they are all used to being rested when Wenger was around. But Emery is not worried so why should we? The Spaniard said: “I had a very different experience, when you play Wednesday or Thursday and then Saturday or Sunday. There are very few days to recover physically and also the mentality of the players to play again in a few hours another match. In this experience, I won, I lost and I played better in the second match.
“We are one team with every player with this experience and also with the habit to play, to recover for another match and continue playing. It’s the reason, for me, that I prefer more time to have to recover physically for the players. But for me, it’s good and we are okay tomorrow with every player to play. We are going to be also perfect to play against Fulham on Sunday.”
So my prediction? If Torreira plays in front of the defence I will believe we can keep a clean sheet, so I’m going for 3-0 to the Arsenal…