David Luiz and Matteo Guendouzi are among the players who are set to return when Arsenal take on Standard Liege in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
Arsenal will be aiming to secure their place in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 and clinch top spot in Group F when they lock horns with Standard Liege at Stade Maurice Dufrasne on Thursday. And, Freddie Ljungberg has a number of fresh concerns hampering his preparations ahead of his side’s latest European fixture.
Kieran Tierney (shoulder), Granit Xhaka (concussion) and Nicolas Pepe (knee) all sustained their respective issues earlier this week against West Ham United and miss the trip to Liege. Ljungberg was quizzed on the mounting injury troubles during his pre-match press conference, and the interim Arsenal boss chose to put up a brave front.
“Of course, it’s not good. We got one in the warm-up at West Ham and then another full back [got injured] in the game. But it’s just one of those freak things. One is to the head [Granit Xhaka] and one is a shoulder [Kieran Tierney] in a tackle. You can’t do much about it, but of course it puts a strain on the squad. But that’s how it is.”
With Hector Bellerin already sidelined with a hamstring injury, Tierney’s absence means Sead Kolasinac is the only natural full-back at Ljungberg’s disposal. Kolasinac is, therefore, a certainty to start on the left side of the Arsenal defence.
For the right-back slot, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers are among the makeshift options for the Arsenal caretaker manager to pick from, with the former likely to get the nod once again. Meanwhile, with Shkodran Mustafi suspended, David Luiz and Konstantinos Mavropanos should form the central defensive partnership, with Emiliano Martinez starting in goal.
The Europa League has also been a competition wherein both Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery looked to blood youngsters in. Ljungberg was asked if he would follow a similar pattern in his first Europa League match in-charge of Arsenal.
“We have a few injuries and we’ve played a lot of games lately and we have another game again on Sunday. But I think we’ve brought enough, we’ve brought a lot of firepower here and we have some younger players that have as well played earlier in the group stages. It’s not just now, they’ve been playing the whole time.”
Joe Willock is among the younger players who ought to get a chance to impress, and with Xhaka out due to concussion, the English midfielder will likely have Matteo Guendouzi for company in the double pivot.
The likes of Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe should start as well, with the trio lining up behind Arsenal’s central striker Gabriel Martinelli, who will lead the line against Standard Liege, like he did in the reverse fixture.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Martinez; Maitland-Niles, Mavropanos, Luiz, Kolasinac; Willock, Guendouzi; Saka, Smith Rowe, Nelson; Martinelli