Unai Emery has taken a strong Arsenal squad to Valencia for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final with a place in the final just a step away.
Unai Emery will be hoping his side can maintain their good run in the Europa League when they visit Valencia on Thursday. After Arsenal practically bowed out of the Premier League top four race, winning the Europa League is vital to play in next season’s Champions League.
There are no new injury concerns or suspensions in the side for the Valencia game, although there are those who are out for the long-term, with Aaron Ramsey and Denis Suarez expected to miss the remainder of the season. Ramsey, however, has a slight chance of returning if the Gunners make it to the Europa League final.
During his pre-match press conference, the talking point was on the importance of the competition and the Valencia game in particular, now that Arsenal have virtually no chance of finishing in the top four of the Premier League. Emery responded in his usual manner and said, “We are in this competition with that opportunity tomorrow. With big ambition, a strong mentality and full motivation we can do it.”
“Every worker in football, every professional, wants to play matches like tomorrow to try to get to a final. I am going to try to transmit to my players to enjoy it, to be focused and to take this experience like a positive in each moment and each minute and also to be thinking that we are playing for our supporters.”
Among players returning to the side, Laurent Koscielny leads the pack after missing the game against Brighton & Hove Albion. The Frenchman is expected to replace Nacho Monreal and form part of a three-man central defensive unit featuring Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Sead Kolasinac is another player who could come back into the starting lineup, alongside fellow wing-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who was also missing from the last game through suspension. Bernd Leno is set to take a backseat once again in Europe, with Petr Cech expected to replace the German between the posts.
Granit Xhaka is expected to be a fixture in the starting lineup, while Matteo Guendouzi, who started the last game against Valencia is expected to keep his place ahead of Lucas Torreira. Mesut Ozil is not expected to play from the start in a crucial away game like this, but he can come from the bench at some stage.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan could start as the playmaker in his place, supplying the balls to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. The likes of Alex Iwobi, Ozil and Eddie Nketiah can be options to come off the bench at some stage of the game.