Arsenal make the long journey to Ukraine to face Vorskla in the Europa League as the Gunners look to seal top spot in their group with a win.
Vorskla Poltava play hosts to Arsenal in their Europa League group stage game with political tensions taking centre-stage. There were doubts earlier if the game would go through because of the stand-off between Ukraine and Russia, but UEFA did confirm the game will go ahead as scheduled.
Vorskla have been victorious in only one of the four games they have played this season in the group stages, and that effectively means they are out of the running to qualify for the next round. As for progression from the group, only Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon are currently in the running, with this matchday to decide which of these teams will top the group going into the next round.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are on an incredible 17-game unbeaten run and come into this after victory over Bournemouth in the Premier League. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured all three points for the Gunners with his second-half winner, and Unai Emery will be hoping to keep the run going after some difficult draws in recent games.
Expect Arsenal to make wholesale changes to their squad for this trip, as Unai Emery will have the weekend game against Tottenham on his mind. A win against Vorskla will virtually ensure Arsenal top their group, attributing to their massive goal difference.
Team News & Tactics
Vorskla Poltava have a few injury problems as they head into the Arsenal clash. Manager Vasyl Sachko will be without the services of Denis Vasin, Aleksandre Kobakhidze and Dmitry Kravchenko for this game. Additionally, there is a suspension looming for Vyacheslav Sharpar if the player is to pick another yellow during this clash.
Overall, Sachko will try and field his strongest possible lineup, despite knowing that even a win would not change his side’s fortunes in the competition. The main idea here is to give their fans at least something to cheer about at the end of the campaign.
Sachko is expected to field a standard 4-4-2 style of the formation with the likes of Artur, Chesnakov, Dallku and Perduta are set to take their defensive positions, while the likes of Rebenok, Sharpar Sklyar and Yakubu will support from midfield the front two of Kulach and Kolomoets up front.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Shust; Artur, Chesnakov, Dallku, Perdatu; Rebenok, Sharpar, Sklyar, Yakubu; Kulach, Kolomoets
Arsenal manager Unai Emery will have a sharp eye on the weekend’s North London Derby while making his team selections for the Vorskla clash. That said, the Spaniard is expected to heavily rotate his squad with many fringe players likely to play a part in this clash.
The likes of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil will likely have places in the starting lineup after being overlooked for the last game against Bournemouth. Laurent Koscielny made a return to playing football for the first time since April with the under-23s, although he is still short of match fitness to play against Vorskla.
Joining him on the sidelines would be Nacho Monreal who is yet to recover from his hamstring problem, and Stephan Lichtsteiner has a similar problem that would keep him out of the game. As a result, Carl Jenkinson is expected to play a part in one of the full-back positions.
With injuries restricting many players, Emery will be forced to play some of his Premier League regulars in the Europa League, although striker Alexandre Lacazette’s involvement is still a doubt after suffering from a minor groin injury before the game against Bournemouth.
Shkodran Mustafi could sit this one out and let Rob Holding and Sokratis Papastathopoulos take the central defensive positions, while Petr Cech could come into the side in goal.
Ramsey and Ozil are expected to play, while Emery is unlikely to risk Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for this game. Eddie Nketiah, Mohamed Elneny and Emile Smith Rowe are all likely to play from the start against Vorskla, in what looks like a competitive starting lineup from Emery.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech; Jenkinson, Holding, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Guendouzi, Elneny; Ozil, Ramsey, Smith Rowe; Nketiah
- Vorskla have an outside chance of finishing second if they beat Arsenal and hope Sporting Lisbon fail to win against Qarabag.
- Arsenal are already through to the next round, and only have to win or match Sporting Lisbon’s result on this matchday to top their group.
- Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in their last three games in the Europa League this season.
- Arsenal are undefeated in 9 of their last 10 games in the competition.
- This is only the second meeting between the sides, with Arsenal winning the previous one, earlier in this season’s group stage.
Player To Watch
The Greek centre-back had been overlooked for the last six Premier League fixtures, before he was recalled for the Bournemouth game. The form of Rob Holding and Sokratis’ subsequent injury a month ago played a big role in the experienced defender being dropped to the bench. He did, however, prove to be Arsenal’s best defender against Bournemouth during the weekend.
His performance against Vorskla will be a crucial factor in Emery deciding the preferred central defensive pairing for the North London derby this weekend, and Sokratis does have a great chance to play alongside Mustafi. His competition with Holding is only a good thing for Arsenal, and a solid outing against the Ukrainians will do a world of good for the centre-back.
Vorskla Poltava 0-3 Arsenal
Arsenal are clear favourites to win this clash and finish their group in the top spot. Vorskla have a few injury problems and some political tensions in their country which is all expected to affect this side against the Gunners. The Ukranian team also lack the motivation other than just playing for pride and for their fans. Arsenal, on the other hand, are playing for all three points and are expected to take them.
The Gunners have a healthy competition going on with Sporting Lisbon in the group, and like they have performed all season in this competition, a win is must for Emery. Losing or dropping points here would mean giving Sporting a chance to capitalise, something Arsenal’s quality side would make sure does not happen.