Arsenal take on BATE Borisov for the final game of the Europa League group stage on Thursday night, but it’s unlikely Arsene Wenger will name a youthful side.
Having already won the group, Arsenal go into the game with nothing but form and fitness to play for. Despite losing away in Cologne on matchday five, results elsewhere meant we would top Group H and be seeded for the round of 32 draw next Monday.
BATE Borisov, meanwhile, still have a chance of qualification. They will need to beat Arsenal and hope that Cologne and Red Star Belgrade draw their game. So, Thursday’s clash isn’t quite as dead as some would have you believe.
Calls to start every player the club has under the age of 21 are likely to be ignored, as Arsene Wenger will look to rotate his squad and give his fringe players some valuable minutes. Yes, that means having to suffer through another 90 minutes of Francis Coquelin.
David Ospina, Per Mertesacker, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Mohamed Elneny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud are also expected to come into the starting eleven.
Arsenal will have to be careful of complacency as BATE will surely try to win the game. The occasion got to them during the 4-2 defeat in Belarus earlier in the season, but they should know that a makeshift Arsenal backline will give up opportunities if put under some pressure.
Arsenal have switched off in this competition, first drawing 0-0 at home to Red Star and then losing 1-0 in Cologne. The individual brilliance from the first three games hasn’t appeared recently, while the team has looked clunky going forward.
The game on Thursday, then, might not be the immediate panacea for the defeat to Manchester United on Saturday. It will hopefully it’ll be a more entertaining encounter than our previous games, and we’ll be able to close the group out in style.