Arsenal return to Europa League action for what is probably their biggest game of the season when they take on Slavia Prague in their quarter final second leg at the Sinobo Stadium.
The Gunners go into the game off the back of a comfortable 3-0 victory over Sheffield United that will surely have boosted confidence levels around the club after a four match winless run.
As the stakes increase now though with the prospect of European qualification on the line Mikel Arteta faces several selection dilemmas.
He know his team have to score after conceding from a frustratingly soft set piece to Slavia with almost the last kick of the game at the Emirates.
But at the same time with the scores finely poised at 1-1 he will be wary of going all out attack having seen the threat the Czech champions do carry when they are allowed to break.
Speaking ahead of the match in his press conference on Wednesday the Spaniard revealed that he was taking nothing for granted despite the fact that Arsenal are still overwhelming favourites to go through.
“Yeah we said before the game that we’ve been really impressed with the form, with what that team transmits, the real attitude and desire that they show in every single game,” he said of Slavia.
“And that’s why they’re here because they knocked out some big teams along the way and fully deserve to be where they are.
“They showed in the first leg against us that they never give up and scored in the last minute of the game. We’re going to have a real battle tomorrow.”
So with this in mind you can expect the Spaniard to pick a strong but well balanced starting 11 for the game that could well define his brief managerial career so far in North London.
In goal Bernd Leno will continue after being put up for press duties on Wednesday morning. The German kept his first clean sheet in 13 matches against Sheffield United and will know that if he can keep another his side will stand a big chance of going through to the Europa League semi finals.
Hector Bellerin hasn’t started a Premier League match since the end of February but seems to be Arteta’s first choice right back when it comes to European competition and will likely come back in in place of Calum Chambers despite another good display from the England international at Bramall Lane.
Granit Xhaka did a good job of filling in at left back for Kieran Tierney who is suffering from a knee injury of his own, but with Swiss international’s lack of pace up against the threat of Slavia’s high-scoring right winger Abdallah Sima, it seems far more likely that Cedric will come in.
This would see Xhaka move back into the middle of the park alongside Thomas Partey who began to show the quality he possesses on the ball with a much improved display against Sheffield United.
Martin Odegaard failed to make the last training session before the trip out to Prague and seems set to miss his third match in a row due to an ankle injury sustained on international duty.
But without him in the side Emile Smith Rowe – who was declared fit on Wednesday morning for the game – will move back into the number 10 role with Bukayo Saka who himself has recovered from a fitness concern set to be pushed back out to the right where he had lots of joy against Slavia’s ageing left back Jan Boril.
Over on the left is probably where Arteta has the biggest decision to make but on a night where his side simply have to score the chances are that he will opt for the directness and urgency brought by Gabriel Martinelli who scored his first goal since returning from injury against Sheffield United.
This would see Nicolas Pepe somewhat harshly relegated to the bench after making such a devastating cameo in the first leg, but at this crucial stage of the season there can be no time for sentimentality.
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Up front it looks like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be unavailable through illness once again after he also missed out on Wednesday’s training session meaning it is likely that Alexandre Lacazette will be given the chance to atone for his two guilt edged misses that could have put the tie to be in the first leg.
This would be the same front four that helped Mikel Arteta turn Arsenal’s season around with the now infamous 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Boxing Day. Having seen them deliver in his time of need before, it would seem a smart choice to turn to them once again.
Arsenal predicted XI vs Slavia Prague: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Cedric; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli; Lacazette.