Arsenal travel to Belarus to face BATE Borisov on Thursday, in the first leg of their Europa League round-of-32 tie.
Thanks to their early exit from the FA Cup, Arsenal now play the two legs of the Europa League clash consecutively, with a week-long break in between.
First, it’s a chilly trip to Borisov, with snowy conditions expected on Thursday. Despite the weather, you shouldn’t expect Unai Emery to leave any key players behind for their protection. He’s said from the start that he’s taking the Europa League seriously, and so he should, considering a top-four spot in the Premier League is far from a certainty.
As a result of the fixture list and the growing importance of the Europa League, we expect Emery to pick a very strong side in midweek. Get the job done in the first leg and he can ease off in the second and rest players for a weekend trip to Southampton.
Let’s have a look at our predicted lineup for the fixture.
The big question here is whether Emery will go with a midfield trio or a sitting pair with a couple of wingers behind two strikers. The latter option has worked well on the rare occasions the Spanish head coach has utilised it, particularly against Fulham earlier in the season.
The addition of Denis Suarez in the January window and the return of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from injury, as well as the ongoing saga with Mesut Özil, makes it seem much more likely Emery will play a couple of wide players than a number 10.
If that’s the case, and he wants to fit two wide players into the team without having to drop Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette, there’ll just be two in midfield.
Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi played the positions at the weekend, thanks to Granit Xhaka’s injury. Xhaka only just missed out on the trip to Huddersfield though, so he should be back in time for this one. He’ll probably take Guendouzi’s place, pairing with Torreira, who got some extra rest after coming off early against Huddersfield.
Mohamed Elneny isn’t likely to start, but he should be an option from the bench.
Click ‘Next’ for Forwards and the full Predicted Starting XI