The Arsenal u23s face Liverpool at Meadow Park on Saturday, with the suggestion that Hector Bellerin could be set to feature again.
The Arsenal u23s kept their unbeaten run going last week with a 2-2 draw away to Wolverhampton Wanderers. They’ll be disappointed not to have come away with the win after leading until the final minutes of the game.
As a result of those dropped points, Arsenal sit two off Chelsea in first place, and the Gunners are also behind Everton on goal difference.
Arsenal’s opponents Liverpool are down at the other end of the table, sitting in 10th (of 12 teams) with five points from six games. Liverpool have been particularly poor at the back, conceding the second-most goals in the league.
This is an opportunity for Arsenal to get back to winning ways and extend that run without a defeat. The game is at Meadow Park at 13:00 BST on Saturday and will be free entry. There might be a stream on Liverpool’s website, but it’s likely to be a paid stream. Arsenal won’t show the match.
Let’s have a look at our predicted lineup for the clash.
Karl Hein continues his run in the team for the u23s, as Arthur Okonkwo is still absent through injury. James Hillson played the first couple of games of the season, but he’s been starting for the u18s recently.
Konstantinos Mavropanos will probably stay with the u23s, for now, even though he’s been passed fit by the Arsenal medical team. The defender is yet to make his first-team return and is unlikely to do so on Monday. Joseph Olowu is the alternative option at centre-back.
Hector Bellerin is in a similar situation, though it’s a tighter call whether he starts for the u23s or is saved for the bench at Old Trafford. Unai Emery suggested the right-back would ‘share some minutes with the u23s’ while he continues his recovery, despite making a brief cameo for the first team on Tuesday.
If Bellerin doesn’t feature for the u23s, Zak Swanson can come in instead.
At left-back, Tolaji Bola made the League Cup bench in midweek, but he’ll drop back down to start this one. Harry Clarke should join Mavropanos at centre-back.
Jordan McEneff and Robbie Burton have been starting every game recently, but the good news is that Matt Smith is also back from injury and ready to make the full step up to the u23s. The u18 captain from last season led his side to the title in 2018/19.
That’s great for Arsenal, because Tyreece John-Jules’ absence through injury will probably force them to play a three in midfield, and Emile Smith Rowe isn’t available to play the third spot as he did earlier in the u23 campaign.
As mentioned, John-Jules is out with injury and will be for the next month. The front three pretty much picks itself as a result, with Trae Coyle on the left, Folarin Balogun up front and Nathan Tormey on the right.
Predicted lineup (4-3-3)
Hein; Bellerin, Mavropanos, Clarke, Bola; McEneff, Smith, Burton; Coyle, Balogun, Tormey.