Arsenal host CSKA Moscow in the opening leg of their Europa League quarter-finals and the Gunners are heavy favourites in the tie to progress in the competition.
Arsene Wenger is well aware of the fact that if Arsenal are to play Champions League football next season, they have to win the Europa League crown. They passed their last hurdle with flying colours after dispatching AC Milan with a 5-1 aggregate score over two legs. Next up, CSKA Moscow at the Emirates for the quarter-finals first leg.
Arsene Wenger made his priority clear last weekend when he rested several key players against Stoke with a firm eye on the CSKA clash. Laurent Koscielny was rested entirely, while Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Granit Xhaka and Alex Iwobi all started from the bench.
Those selections gave away an idea as to who might start against the Russian side. Danny Welbeck, however, went off injured and was thought to be a doubt, but reports suggest that he could be available and start from the bench as could Jack Wilshere who had just recovered from a knee injury before the Stoke game.
In goal, Petr Cech is a doubt after missing the weekend’s clash with injury. But, as such, David Ospina has been the preferred choice in cup games this season, and should keep his place.
Hector Bellerin is a sure starter, so are Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal in the back four. Calum Chambers started on the weekend, but with Laurent Koscielny well rested, the Frenchman should partner Mustafi in central defence.
Mohamed Elneny, fresh from signing a new contract, is expected to start in central midfield in the anchorman role, with Wilshere likely to start on the bench as he continues to shake off the effects from the knee injury. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey are expected to partner Elneny in the midfield trio.
Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are set to form part of the front three, with Alexandre Lacazette expected to lead the line for Arsenal. Lacazette only returned from two months out due to a knee injury against Stoke, where he scored Arsenal’s third goal from the penalty spot.
Wenger was quizzed about Lacazette and his fitness to start a game in his pre-match press conference, to which the manager replied, “Lacazette is ready to start, yes. I have not decided if he will start or not yet, but he’s available and ready to start.”
That certainly puts a question mark on Welbeck’s involvement right from the start, after the England international was taken off with a back problem at the weekend. Wenger’s comments point to the fact that Welbeck is fit to take part in the game in some capacity.