Kieran Tierney should be in line for a return while Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe should also start when Arsenal take on Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League.
Arsenal will be gunning to book a place in the finals of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League when they lock horns with La Liga side Villarreal in the semi-final second leg on Thursday night at the Emirates Stadium.
Heading into the game, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has one fresh concern as David Luiz picked up an injury in the weekend win over Newcastle United and is a doubt for Thursday. Apart from that, the Gunners have a clean bill of health, with Kieran Tierney and Alexandre Lacazette having returned to training over the past week and in contention to start.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Arteta did not give much away with regard to team news, playing his cards close to his chest ahead of this gigantic clash. “We will see today. We are training this afternoon so we will see how everybody is,” he said. When quizzed in particular about Luiz, the Spaniard said, “He was feeling better yesterday. Let’s see how he is today. We don’t know the extent of the injury yet.”
Having rung in the changes for the weekend clash against Newcastle, Arteta is expected to recall his regulars to the starting XI on Thursday against Villarreal, with Bernd Leno set to replace Mat Ryan between the sticks. Protecting him from the centre-half slots should be the duo of Rob Holding and Pablo Mari, replacing the Brazilian pair of Luiz and Gabriel Magalhaes.
Calum Chambers has done exceedingly well at right-back in recent games and should get the nod ahead of Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares when Villarreal come visiting. The left-back slot, however, will pose a dilemma for Arteta, with Tierney back in contention while Granit Xhaka also doing quite well in the position in recent games.
However, given what is at stake in this clash and considering the pace that Samu Chukwueze possesses on the right side of the Villarreal attack, Tierney would be the better choice for Arsenal, even though he hasn’t played in a while. The Scotsman’s return ought to allow Xhaka to return to his preferred role in midfield where he will partner Thomas Partey and look to control the proceedings.
Moving into the final third of the pitch, there are likely to be at least three changes as Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe are in line to return to the starting lineup after being rested at the weekend. The duo will replace Willian and Gabriel Martinelli on the right and left flanks, respectively while Emile Smith Rowe should come in for Martin Odegaard as the No. 10.
Up top, even though Lacazette is expected to be fit and available, club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored in the win against Newcastle, ought to continue as the lone striker for Arsenal against Villarreal.
Arsenal Predicted XI: Leno; Chambers, Holding, Mari, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe, Pepe; Aubameyang