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.
In the two wide positions, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will probably keep their places after their performances at the weekend. Both put in a good shift and linked up with the wing-backs well. Denis Suarez is still waiting for his full debut, but it would be safer to give it to him back at the Emirates, after getting a result in the first leg.
Up front, it’s difficult to look past Aubameyang and Lacazette if they’re both fit and healthy. Aubameyang missed Saturday’s match with illness, but Emery seemed to imply it was a close thing going into the game, so he should return to the starting eleven.
As a result of those four selections, it seems Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey are set to miss out again. Both were already doubts anyway, with Ramsey’s fitness status unknown after his knee injury, and Özil also recovering from illness.
If they return in time, they’ll probably make the squad. Otherwise, it might be time for more first-team call-ups for the likes of Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah.
Click ‘Next’ for the full Predicted Starting XI