Arsenal face Rennes on Thursday in the last-16 of the Europa League, hoping to make a strong start to the tie away from home at Roazhon Park.
Unai Emery goes into the first leg in the rare position of having most of his squad fit and available. Obviously, there are still the three long-term injuries to Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck and Rob Holding, plus Alexandre Lacazette will miss out with suspension. Other than that, though, everyone should be available for selection.
Let’s have a look at our predicted lineup for the clash.
Petr Cech looks most likely to come into the team. He played the last round against BATE Borisov, and he has a history with Rennes, having spent time with them earlier in his career. Bernd Leno will take the spot on the bench.
Unai Emery will probably play a back four, as he did against Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, although you never really know anymore. The 4-2-3-1 system is definitely working well for the team, so we’ll assume that’s what he’ll go with.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Laurent Koscielny were excellent against Spurs, so they should make up the centre-back pairing. On the right, Emery has Stephan Lichtsteiner, Carl Jenkinson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Shkodran Mustafi as options. He’ll probably go with Lichtsteiner after Mustafi’s mistake at the weekend.
Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal are equally valid candidates at left-back, but after the Bosnian was rested at the weekend he should come in for this one.
Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira are starting to get some more time together on the pitch, and Arsenal are benefitting from it. Although Matteo Guendouzi started against Spurs, he came off at half-time for Torreira, and you’d expect the Uruguayan to start against Rennes now.
It seems Joe Willock is going to travel as well, as he missed the u23s’ game against Swansea City on Monday.
Ahead of the sitting midfield pair, Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey are both available. Ramsey scored a good goal at the weekend but Emery appears to be rotating between them at the moment, so we’ll assume Özil starts.
Out wide, it’s hard to look past Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Denis Suarez will presumably get his full debut at some point, but it seems more likely it’ll be after this crucial run of fixtures. For now, he’ll be on the bench ready to give one of the two wingers a break.
Up front, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the only real option. Eddie Nketiah will be in the squad, after missing Arsenal’s academy match like Willock. Don’t be surprised to see the English youngster coming off the bench too, as Unai Emery can’t afford to take any risks with Aubameyang’s fitness ahead of the second leg. However, Nketiah’s unlikely to start.