Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool when they face Slavia Prague in the first-leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final at the Emirates Stadium this evening, kick-off 8:00pm.
The Gunners, who defeated Prague 7-0 in their last meeting in north London back in October 2007, saw their winless run extended to three matches on Saturday evening as they were swept aside by Jurgen Klopp’s side, with Diogo Jota’s brace and a solitary hit from Mohamed Salah getting the job done.
The defeat to Liverpool has left Arsenal’s already faint hopes of qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League via the Premier League table hanging by a thread, meaning their only realistic chance of returning to European club football’s top competition next season is via the Europa League.
But despite the Gunners currently finding themselves ten points behind fourth-placed West Ham United, Gunners chief Mikel Arteta is refusing to throw in the towel on Arsenal’s chances of finishing in the top-four this season.
Addressing the media during his pre-match press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the Spaniard said: “Until it’s mathematically impossible, you have to fight. There is no other way to do it.
“We have to be realistic with where we are in the league and it’s extremely difficult.
“But it’s mathematically possible so we have to stick to that.”
Although Arteta is refusing to give up on Arsenal’s chances of finishing inside the top-four, the Europa League remains the club’s only hope of winning a trophy before the end of the season, as they have crashed out of both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
When asked if the two-legged tie with Prague meant all or northing to Arsenal’s season, Arteta added: “Well, this competition is all or nothing because when you play a tie, you are in or you are out.
“We want to be in the semi-finals and we know how important the game is for us.”
But if Arsenal are to book a place in the last-four of the competition, they will have to get the better of a Slavia Prague side who have already defeated Leicester City and Scottish giants Rangers in each of the last two knockout rounds, meaning that they will act as a very stern test.
“They are a really strong side,” Arteta said. “They’ve been unbeaten in the league. You see how they have the ball. I think in the last few years, competing at the highest level, they’ve always been in the game and made it really difficult.
“[They’re] really competitive, brave, very direct and incisive and a team that can cause you problems throughout the game.
“They never give up, they have a top attitude all the time and that’s why they beat teams because they’re a really good side.”
Ahead of tonight’s clash at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal have been rocked by the news that left-back Kieran Tierney could miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. The Scotland international was forced off just before half time against Liverpool on Saturday and it has quickly been discovered that he faces a spell on the sidelines, but will not require surgery.
The concerning news on the injury front for Arsenal, however, did not end there, as Arteta also faces an anxious wait on the availability of Martin Odegaard. The Norway international, who is currently on loan at Arsenal from Spanish giants Real Madrid, rolled his ankle whilst away on international duty but was still deemed fit enough to play the full 90 minutes of the clash with Liverpool.
However, it has now been confirmed that he has suffered more ankle troubles and faces the prospect of missing the clash with Prague, with Arteta confirming that a late check will be made.
Arteta said: “We will assess him today [Wednesday] on how he’s feeling.
“He’s been carrying an injury for the last few days since he got injured with the national team. We have a few of them for the last game when we played Liverpool as well.
“So, it will be today [Wednesday], probably the day when we see where everybody is at and who is available for tomorrow.”
Fortunately, Granit Xhaka, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka have all been deemed fit and available for selection.
The summer transfer window is just around the corner.
And the rumour mill is already starting to pick up speed.
Arsenal will not have a huge amount of money to spend, but Mikel Arteta will be hoping to make a number of moves, with loanee Martin Odegaard high up the list of priorities to bring in on a permanent deal.
But who would you sign? Get involved in our transfer window debate here.
Elsewhere, centre-back David Luiz remains sidelined after recently undergoing minor knee surgery.
Full Arsenal squad available to face Slavia Prague:
Goalkeepers: Bernd Leno, Mat Ryan & Karl Hein.
Defenders: Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari & Calum Chambers
Midfielders: Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Dani Ceballos, Mohamed Elneny, Martin Odegaard (if passed fit) & Emile Smith Rowe.
Strikers: Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah & Gabriel Martinelli.