Arsenal will be looking to progress to their second UEFA Europa League final in the space of just three seasons when they lock horns with Villarreal in the second-leg of their semi-final showdown this evening.
The Gunners, who got back to winning ways in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon with an encouraging 2-0 away win over Newcastle United, head into this evening’s match 2-1 down from the first-leg last Thursday evening.
Although it was, overall, a disappointing performance from the Gunners, they did score what could prove to be a vital away goal in the tie, as Nicolas Pepe netted a penalty with 17 minutes remaining to half the deficit.
Pepe’s coolly struck penalty means that even just a 1-0 win for Arsenal this evening would be enough to take them into the final and book a date, almost certainly, against Manchester United in Gdansk later this month.
With the outcome of this evening’s game almost certainly going to have a major impact on the way the Gunners’ season is assessed come the end of the campaign, Arteta did opt to hold back some of his star players against Newcastle at the weekend, handing out rests to some of his key performers.
Amongst them were the likes of Thomas Partey, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Pepe, with Partey the only one of them to see any action, as he stepped off the bench for the closing stages of the contest.
However, whilst it is highly likely that those four will return to the starting line-up this evening, it appears as though midfield enforcer Partey has all-but confirmed he will return to the side.
Judging by his latest Instagram post, the Ghanaian international looks destined to start in the centre of midfield, as he looks to try and keep the Gunners’ season alive.
Taking to Instagram, Partey has uploaded a fixture advertisement graphic, featuring images of himself, the fixture and the kick-off time, suggesting that he will start this evening’s contest.
Interestingly, other members of the Arsenal squad have done the same this season, including Brazilian duo Gabriel Martinelli and Willian. Defender Pablo Mari, who was also rested against Newcastle on Sunday, has posted a similar picture on his Instagram account today.
However, it should be noted that other players have done the same in the past when only being named on the substitutes bench and not in the starting line-up.
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In his maiden season in England, Partey has not enjoyed anywhere near as much success as he would have hoped for, with injury issues having restricted him to just 28 appearances in all competitions.
However, Partey does appear to have put the bulk of his injury problems behind him. In recent weeks, he has been an almost ever-present figure for the Gunners, featuring in all of their last 15 matches, either as a starter or off the bench.