Arsenal are preparing for the biggest game of their season to date and have been handed an injury boost with the potential return to action of David Luiz.
The Gunners head to Spain on Thursday night to face Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final and go into the game with just two wins in their past eight matches.
Following a dreadful league campaign, the Europa League is Arsenal’s only realistic route into European competition next season and in their way is former Gunners boss Unai Emery.
The Spaniard is somewhat of a Europa League specialist, having won the trophy on three occasions with Sevilla and leading Arsenal to a runner-up spot in 2019.
Despite the task ahead of them, Arsenal’s mood will have been boosted by the potential return of Brazilian David Luiz to the starting line-up.
The defender was spotted back in training on Tuesday morning after missing five weeks of action following a minor surgical procedure on his knee.
According to the Evening Standard, the Brazilian is in contention for a start on Thursday evening, despite his absence with injury and question marks over his long-term future at the club.
Luiz’s current deal expires at the end of this season and no new agreement has been reached with the club about the 34-year-old’s future.
The centre-back has not featured for Arsenal since the 3-3 draw away to West Ham in March and the Gunners have conceded six in six games in his absence, keeping just two clean sheets in the process.
Luiz’s experience could be just the boost Arsenal require to help them see off Emery’s team. The former Chelsea man lifted the FA Cup with the Gunners last season but is a multiple-winner in Europe from his time at Stamford Bridge.
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As a Chelsea player, Luiz was part of the 2012 team that lifted the Champions League trophy and is a two-time Europa League winner with the Blues as well.
This big-game experience could be vital for Mikel Arteta as he aims to lift the spirits in the Gunners’ camp following a poor 1-0 loss to Everton and a scrappy 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Fulham.