Arsenal u23s face Villarreal in the first match of their Premier League International Cup campaign on Wednesday.
Arsenal were drawn in a group with Villarreal, Dinamo Zagreb and Leicester City this year, with all matches set to take place in the U.K. The top team from each of the six groups qualifies for the knockout stages, plus the two best second-placed finishers.
In the opening group game, Zagreb came out 2-1 winners over Villarreal, so the Spanish side will be looking to bounce back against the Gunners at Meadow Park on Wednesday, November 27th at 7pm.
As for Arsenal, they’ll be looking to get off to a winning start and to keep their three-game winning streak in November going.
The match is very unlikely to be streamed, so anyone interested in watching will have to attend Meadow Park in person, but the game will be free entry for fans and we’ll cover it in detail for the site and on Twitter.
Team News and Predicted Lineup
Folarin Balogun’s road to recovery is nearly complete, with the striker posting as much on his Instagram on Saturday.
We exclusively revealed that Balogun could be out for as long as six to eight weeks after picking up an injury at the start of the month. It seems he’s currently a little ahead of schedule, but this game will still come too soon for him.
Thankfully, Balogun’s strike partner Tyreece John-Jules is fit and firing on all cylinders. The 18-year-old scored against Southampton at the weekend, making it nine goal contributions in eight games for the Arsenal u23s and the England u19s.
James Olayinka is back in the team after injury and played well against Southampton too, hitting the post in the second half.
The rest of the side has stayed fairly consistent, though Robbie Burton missed out through suspension at the weekend and will likely return to the side now. Ben Cottrell may have to miss out as a result, which is harsh on him given his good form.
Here’s our predicted lineup:
There’s a small possibility that John-Jules could miss out ahead of the Europa League clash with Frankfurt on Thursday. If that is the case, he’d likely be replaced by Sam Greenwood from the u18s. However, it seems he didn’t join first-team training on Wednesday.
With Gabriel Martinelli available and the pressure on Unai Emery right now, it seems unlikely he’ll be giving any debuts.
Previous PL International Cup Appearances
In 2017/18, Arsenal’s u23s topped their PL International Cup group ahead of Porto B, Bayern II and Reading u23s. They then went on to beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 in the quarter-final, Villarreal on penalties in the semi-final, before losing to Porto 1-0 in the final.
It was a shame, particularly as Arsenal had beaten the same opposition in the group stages.
Unfortunately, the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Jordi Osei-Tutu, who had all starred for the u23s up until the final, were all held back to make the senior Premier League squad against Leicester City the following day.
In 2018/19, Arsenal didn’t take part in the competition, so Wednesday’s game represents a comeback for the former finalists.