Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding are among eight players set to return to the starting lineup when Arsenal welcome Vitoria de Guimaraes to the Emirates on Thursday.
Arsenal will have the chance to take one step closer to the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League when they play hosts to Vitoria de Guimaraes at the Emirates on Thursday night. And, Unai Emery has no fresh injury concerns to deal with ahead of his side’s third European fixture, with Reiss Nelson the only absentee.
Over the course of his spell as the Arsenal manager, Emery has made plenty of rotations in the Europa League and the same should be prevalent against Vitoria SC. Bernd Leno is set to be given a breather, with Emiliano Martinez taking his place between the sticks.
The entire defensive line is expected to be shuffled as well and in his pre-match press conference, Emery was quizzed as to whether the back four that is set to take the field against Vitoria de Guimaraes was better than the one that lined up in the 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United on Monday. The Arsenal boss, though, was very diplomatic in his answer.
“In the Europa League we are using different players and they are also improving our defensive moment. It’s for all the players. Above all, I want to continue to be an offensive team, but improve defensively. I think we are going to do that. After Monday, we can be disappointed but we’ve got another chance in 24 hours,” he said.
Thursday’s back four will feature three players who are trying to work their way back into a regular role after recovering from their respective injuries, namely Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding. While Bellerin and Tierney will be the full-back pairing, Holding will have Shkodran Mustafi as his central defensive partner.
Up ahead in midfield, Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi should be rested, leaving room for Lucas Torreira to return. Dani Ceballos is an option to be Torreira’s partner in the double pivot, but Joe Willock is likely to get another chance to impress, this time in his more natural position, after struggling in the no. 10 role against Sheffield United.
With Nelson unavailable due to a knee injury, Nicolas Pepe is likely to stay put in the starting lineup, with Bukayo Saka being the other winger for Arsenal. Reprising the no. 10 role, should be Mesut Ozil, who is slowly running out of opportunities in Emery’s side.
Finally, the impressive Gabriel Martinelli will lead the line against Vitoria SC, allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the fit-again Alexandre Lacazette to be fresh for the upcoming weekend’s excursions in the Premier League.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Martinez; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Tierney; Torreira, Willock; Pepe, Ozil, Saka; Martinelli