Returning to Europa League action with the opportunity to top the group on Thursday, here’s our Arsenal predicted lineup for Molde FK.
Arsenal are in a strong position in their Europa League group right now.
Any result other than a three-goal defeat against Molde will give them the head-to-head advantage over their opponents, meaning they’d top the group with two wins in their final two games. However, they can top it early by beating Molde.
That will almost certainly be enough, as any points dropped by Rapid Vienna for the remainder of the group stage would make it mathematically impossible for anyone to catch the Gunners. So a win would take any pressure off those final two games.
Mikel Arteta is still likely to rotate, but he won’t start selecting u23 players just yet. Much better to secure qualification and then give the youth players a free shot to impress. Let’s look at our predicted Arsenal lineup for Molde.
It initially appeared as if Mikel Arteta was going to start using his second-choice goalkeeper in the Europa League, after he brought Runar Alex Runarsson in to play against Dundalk.
However, Bernd Leno came back in against Molde FK, and I’d expect him to start again. If Arsenal win, there are two free hits to test Runarsson at the end of the group stage afterwards.
Kieran Tierney probably needs a break, but Sead Kolasinac is unavailable due to coronavirus. Bukayo Saka could also use a rest after coming off with an injury on Sunday, so Ainsley Maitland-Niles is probably next up in the left-back hierarchy.
I’d quite like to see Joel Lopez in the squad based on his u23 performances, but he’s unlikely to start.
David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi should come in at centre-back, as they did in the home fixture, giving Gabriel Magalhaes and Rob Holding a rest. Cedric Soares will almost certainly replace Hector Bellerin at right-back.
Thomas Partey is an injury doubt, and I’m guessing Arsenal would prefer to rest him for this one and have him available for the weekend in the league. Mohamed Elneny is also out after a positive coronavirus test.
That leaves Arsenal with limited midfield options. Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock are the most likely to make the side, as they did in the reverse fixture. It’s hard to see many alternatives unless Emile Smith Rowe comes in.
Smith Rowe is performing well for the u23s, so it’s very possible. But it’s hard to assess where he is in Arteta’s thinking right now.
Reiss Nelson should get a chance to start on the left, with Nicolas Pepe on the right. After Pepe’s red card, Arteta will want to save Willian for the Premier League. Eddie Nketiah should come in at centre-forward as he tends to in the Europa League matches.
That means rests for the Premier League front three of Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang, Alexandre Lacazette and Willian, though I’d expect them to make the squad.
With Kolasinac and Elneny unavailable, perhaps there’s an extra bench place for Folarin Balogun too. He can’t play in the u23 match on Friday, due to suspension, so it’s a good opportunity for him.