Arsenal take on Qarabag at the Emirates Stadium in the final game of the Europa League groups stages, with progression to the knockout rounds and top spot in the group already guaranteed.
As a result, with a busy fixture list over the next few weeks, you’d expect Unai Emery to give most of his key players a rest. However, Arsenal still have their unbeaten record to play for, and it would be unfair on FC Vorskla to throw the game completely, as the Ukrainian side and Qarabag fight for a third-place finish.
So expect a lot of changes, but the players coming into the team will still want to get the win. That’s especially true for the fringe squad members or academy stars looking to prove themselves. Let’s have a look at our predicted XI for the fixture.
Goalkeeper and Defence
Petr Cech hasn’t started a game in the Premier League since September, so it seems pretty clear he’s on League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League duties now. As a result, you’d expect him to start, though it’s also a good opportunity to give Emi Martinez a chance.
Unfortunately for the Argentine, Cech is probably more in need of the game time, considering he’ll probably start against Tottenham in the League Cup in a week’s time. Either way, this is definitely a good game to rest Bernd Leno.
Despite Emery’s recent use of a three-back formation, we expect him to revert to a back four on this occasion, due to the lack of available centre-backs. Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos are all currently injured.
As a result, this is the perfect game for Laurent Koscielny to make his return to the starting lineup, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos makes most sense alongside him, considering the Greek international is suspended for the Premier League match this weekend.
Zech Medley will be hopeful of some more game time, after his impressive debut against FC Vorskla. He’ll likely come off the bench for Koscielny, so the centre-back doesn’t have to play the full 90 minutes in his first senior match back.
At full-back, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Carl Jenkinson can fill in, to allow Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin and Stephan Lichtsteiner to rest for the weekend. All four might be needed if Emery wants to play a back three again.
Click ‘Next’ for Midfield, Forwards and the Full Starting XI
Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey are both returning from injuries, so it doesn’t make much sense to risk them in this game. Lucas Torreira has given his all in match after match recently, so he deserves a rest. Though Granit Xhaka got a rest of his own through suspension last Wednesday, you’d expect him to sit this one out too.
Mohamed Elneny will return to the starting eleven, therefore, alongside Matteo Guendouzi, who has been a regular starter in the Europa League this season. Despite Guendouzi starting Arsenal’s last two league games, he probably won’t start this weekend, so it’s not so much of a risk to use him in this one.
To round out the midfield trio, Joe Willock should get another chance, after he scored his first goal against FC Vorskla.
Click ‘Next’ for Forwards and the Full Starting XI
Just as in the midfield, you’d expect a lot of the senior stars to get a rest in this match, so Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will make way for Eddie Nketiah, considering Danny Welbeck is still out injured.
Emile Smith Rowe definitely deserves to keep getting games in this competition, after scoring in two of his three Europa League starts. He’ll take up one of the wide positions as a result.
Bukayo Saka made a bright start to life in the Arsenal first team against FC Vorskla, and he’s certainly the most likely academy player to join Nketiah and Smith Rowe in the team.
However, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are both in need of a confidence boost, and they won’t both play at the weekend if Ramsey, Özil, Lacazette and Aubameyang are all available. As a result, we expect Iwobi to start the match on the left, with Saka perhaps coming on in the second half.
Click ‘Next’ for the Full Starting XI