Arsenal face Valencia in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday, with a 3-1 lead and all their Champions League qualification hopes riding on winning the competition.
Arsenal’s disastrous finish to the Premier League campaign means their final match on Sunday is all but irrelevant. To finish top four, the Gunners would have to hope Everton beat Tottenham and they won against Burnley by such a margin to overturn a goal difference gap of eight, which isn’t going to happen.
As a result, everything is on the Europa League now. Arsenal need to see out the second leg of their semi before beating Frankfurt or Chelsea in Baku to win the competition, as that’s the only realistic route to Champions League football next season.
There should be no holding back from Unai Emery in his team selection, so let’s have a look at our predicted lineup.
Goalkeeper and Centre-Backs
In goal, Petr Cech will continue his run of games, whilst Bernd Leno will drop to the bench. Cech is yet to give Emery any reason to stop keeping faith with him, with four clean sheets in his last six games and a number of key saves in the first leg.
Meanwhile, Laurent Koscielny will come back into the team after his rest against Brighton. He should be partnered by Nacho Monreal and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, with Shkodran Mustafi dropping out from last week.
Mustafi actually did a decent job in the first leg, and he was no worse against Brighton at the weekend. Still, with Monreal fully fit again, there seems little reason to leave him out when Arsenal have had their best defensive performances with that trio.
Konstantinos Mavropanos is ineligible and Rob Holding is still injured, though he’s starting to work with a ball on the pitch again.
Valencia vs Arsenal Bettings Tips
Alexandre Lacazette scored a brace last Thursday and netted the crucial away goal in the quarter-final against Napoli. Bet on Lacazette to score anytime with Betway at 21/10.
Neither team has kept a clean sheet in their last five matches in all competitions. Bet on both teams to score with Betway at 11/20.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has 26 goals this season, including two in his last two games. Bet on Aubameyang to score anytime with Betway at 17/10.
Prediction: Valencia 1-1 Arsenal (6/1 with Betway).
Midfield and Wing-Backs
Like Monreal, Lucas Torreira missed out on the starting eleven for the first leg, but he should return for this game. Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny haven’t shown much to suggest they should be displacing the Uruguayan midfielder recently, and Aaron Ramsey is out injured.
Granit Xhaka made a mistake to concede a penalty against Brighton, but he’s still going to be important if Arsenal want to get a result. Joe Willock deserves a first-team chance, but now probably isn’t the time for a start (though he is confirmed to be with the squad).
Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are the only real options for the wing-back positions. Stephan Lichtsteiner played full-back at the weekend, but that was only thanks to Maitland-Niles’ suspension. There’s no alternative to Kolasinac on the left, bar Monreal, but the Spaniard should be starting as a centre-back.
There should be no doubts about which Arsenal stars will start in the front three. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put the team on their back to pull them through the first leg, and they’ll be required again to try and get the Gunners a crucial away goal.
Behind them, Mesut Özil is the only real option. As mentioned previously, Aaron Ramsey is out injured, and it’s too much of a risk to start Joe Willock given his inexperience in games like these.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi have one goal contribution combined since the start of March, so they haven’t earned a start. If they come on as substitutes, they need to do better.