Arsenal brace themselves for a stern test against Valencia in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, with Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny set to return.
Arsenal have lost three games in a row for the first time this season, and it would be rather uncharacteristic to lose four. Unai Emery is expected to rally his team to bounce back and claim a first leg advantage against Valencia, as winning the Europa League seems like the only way Arsenal can get into next season’s Champions League.
There could be changes to the side that lost to Leicester City over last weekend, with shuffles on both ends of the pitch. Shkodran Mustafi, who was heavily criticised for his performances in recent games could be the man replaced in the side, with the fit-again Nacho Monreal set to return.
Laurent Koscielny is also expected to return, replacing Mustafi at the heart of the Arsenal defence. Sokratis and Monreal are the likely partners, with Emery reverting to a back-three for the Valencia clash. Petr Cech has kept three clean sheets in the last three games in the competition and he should start ahead of Bernd Leno. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac ought to retain their wing-back roles.
Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka are set to be named in the central midfield berths, while Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny will provide options off the bench.
One player who might have broken the hearts of Arsenal fans the world over is Aaron Ramsey, who is yet to recover from the hamstring problem he sustained against Napoli last month, and is now set to miss the remainder of the season. During his pre-match press conference, Emery was asked about the fact that Ramsey might have played his last game for Arsenal.
“He is with us this morning, and also I spoke with him for two minutes yesterday. He is with us, and he feels Arsenal, and he wants to enjoy the last matches with us. Yes [he is sad about it], we spoke about that and the possibility to do something important, but the injuries are like that. It is the same for Bellerin, Holding and Danny Welbeck.”
Mesut Ozil, who missed the Leicester game with a minor problem is back in training, however, and Emery might weigh up the idea of starting him against Valencia. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will form the strike partnership, putting Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan back to the Arsenal bench.