Arsenal are set to face Vitoria at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday, looking to bounce back from defeat on Monday and keep their perfect Europa League record going.
In the first two games of their European campaign, Unai Emery’s side have won 3-0 in Frankfurt and 4-0 against Standard Liege at home. Next, they take on Vitoria, who sit bottom of the group as things stand.
Vitoria are perhaps unfortunate not to have picked up a point yet, losing narrowly to Frankfurt 1-0 and arguably performing better than Liege in an unlucky 2-0 defeat thanks to an own goal and a very late second.
All the same, this is a very winnable game. Emery should rotate heavily after the Premier League match on Monday, with another coming up on Sunday.
Let’s have a look at our predicted lineup for the match.
Emi Martinez should reclaim his spot in the starting lineup, as he’s been the first-choice goalkeeper in the League Cup and Europa League so far. The Argentine has kept three clean sheets in three games, so there’s no reason to change.
Bernd Leno will probably make the bench, as he has in the previous games. Matt Macey was on the bench in the League Cup, but not in the group stage so far.
As they continue to get themselves Premier League-ready, Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding should all start. The trio played 90 minutes against Standard Liege and seem to be all-but-fully fit, but Emery is still being cautious with them.
Shkodran Mustafi has also earned his place in the cup/European squad for now. Konstantinos Mavropanos is fit, but struggling for form with the u23s, so he’s unlikely to come in.
David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos should be rested, as should Sead Kolasinac and Calum Chambers. We’ll get to Ainsley Maitland-Niles later.
Lucas Torreira probably deserves to be in Arsenal’s first-choice team, but since he didn’t play any part on Monday, he should start this one. Joe Willock was withdrawn early and can partner the Uruguayan in a deeper role on this occasion.
The third spot could go one of three ways. Dani Ceballos also only played a half on Monday, but it seems fairly likely he’ll start at the weekend, so he may be rested here.
Mesut Özil is fit and available, but it seems Emery will use any excuse not to play him at this point. In this case, that excuse comes to him in the form of Emile Smith Rowe. The young midfielder is just back from his head injury and needs matches, so we’re predicting he’ll start.
Free from playing a backup right-back role in the squad, Maitland-Niles can pursue his dream of starting further forward. This didn’t go too well in the last game against Liege, but he should get another chance on this occasion.
Gabriel Martinelli did excellently up front in Alexandre Lacazette’s absence, but Lacazette is back and he could use a start. With Reiss Nelson out, we predict Martinelli will move out wide to the left.
There are certainly other options here. Folarin Balogun could be rewarded for his strong u23 form with a game, Smith Rowe could play out wide with Özil or Ceballos in the middle. Emery could experiment with a different formation playing both Lacazette and Martinelli centrally.
Having a large squad of players who are mostly back fit gives Emery options if he wants them, but this is our predicted team.