Arsenal will look to clinch top spot in Group F of the UEFA Europa League when they take on Standard Liege at Stade Maurice Dufrasne on Thursday.
The group stage of the 2019-20 UEFA Europa League will culminate on Thursday, with Matchday 6 of the opening phase. Arsenal will be hoping to not just qualify for the Round of 32, but also secure top spot in Group F when they lock horns with Standard Liege at Stade Maurice Dufrasne on Thursday.
Standard Liege have been on a decent run of form lately, having managed to go five games without facing defeat in the last month or so. Les Rouches currently find themselves third in both the Jupiler Pro League as well as the Europa League Group F table and only have an outside chance to make the knockout stages of the competition.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have tailed off horribly in the Europa League after a solid start to their group stage campaign. The Gunners are still perched atop Group F, but have seen their grip on the top spot loosening, particularly following their 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 5, which ended up costing Unai Emery his job as the first-team boss.
However, the North Londoners will be buzzing following their 3-1 win over West Ham United, their first under Freddie Ljungberg. The reverse fixture, played at the Emirates in October, ended in a 4-0 win for Arsenal, with Gabriel Martinelli, Joe Willock and Dani Ceballos being on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Michel Preud’homme does not have any fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Arsenal. On Thursday, the Standard Liege boss will continue to remain without the services of four first-team players, with Orlando Sa (achilles) being the major absentee.
Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (collarbone), Noe Dussenne (knee) and Anthony Limbombe (knee) are the other three absentees for Standard Liege. Preud’homme is expected to name his strongest eleven on Thursday, with their qualification hopes hanging by a thread.
Arnaud Bodart should take his place in goal for the hosts, with the Standard Liege manager expected to line his side up in a 4-3-3 formation ahead of Bodart. Collins Fai and Nicolas Gavory will form the full-back pairing, with Zinho Vanheusden and Konstantinos Laifis partnering up at the heart of the defence.
Up ahead in midfield, Samuel Bastien ought to sit at the base of the three-man unit. Selim Amallah and Paul-Jose M’Poku will provide company to Bastien in the middle of the park, with the duo taking up more advanced positions on the pitch.
Standard Liege captain Renaud Emond will lead the line against Arsenal, with Maxime Lestienne and Aleksandar Boljevic likely to support him from the wide areas, looking to use their pacy outlet to put the vulnerable Arsenal defence under pressure.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bodart; Fai, Vanheusden, Laifis, Gavory; Amallah, Bastien, M’Poku; Boljevic, Emong, Lestienne
Freddie Ljungberg has a myriad of issues to contend with ahead of his side’s trip to Belgium. Against Standard Liege on Thursday, the stand-in Arsenal manager is set to be without as many as seven first-team players, with several being rendered unavailable following Monday’s clash with West Ham United.
Hector Bellerin (hamstring), Rob Holding (knee) and Dani Ceballos (hamstring) had already been missing for Arsenal ahead of the trip to take on Standard Liege, while Shkodran Mustafi misses the game due to suspension. The quartet have now been joined on the sidelines by Kieran Tierney (shoulder), Granit Xhaka (concussion) and Nicolas Pepe (knee).
As is customary in the Europa League, Ljungberg should rotate his side, with a number of fringe players expected to take the field. Emiliano Martinez is a certain starter for Arsenal in the Europa League and will line up between the sticks against Standard Liege.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is likely to hold on to his spot on the right side of the Arsenal defence, with Sead Kolasinac coming into the side in place of the injured Tierney on the left. At the heart of the Arsenal defence, David Luiz should pair up with Konstantinos Mavropanos.
Up ahead in midfield, Matteo Guendouzi, who has not managed to retain his status of a regular under Ljungberg, should partner up with Joe Willock in the double pivot, with Emile Smith Rowe likely to be deployed in the hole by the Arsenal caretaker boss.
Gabriel Martinelli, who was on target at West Ham on Monday, should move into the central striker’s berth in Liege, with young prospects Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson expected to be the two wide men.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Maitland-Niles, Mavropanos, Luiz, Kolasinac; Willock, Guendouzi; Saka, Smith Rowe, Nelson; Martinelli
- Thursday’s fixture at Stade Maurice Dufranse will be Arsenal’s sixth meeting with Standard Liege. The Gunners have been victorious in each of the last five meetings, including the 4-0 triumph in the reverse fixture in October.
- Standard Liege have won just twice in 15 competitive matches against English opposition, both at home, the most recent of them being a 2-1 win against Everton in the first round of the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.
- Arsenal have won three of their four games in Belgium, including each of the last three, the most recent being a 2-1 triumph at Anderlecht in the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League group stage.
- Standard have won only eight of their 17 UEFA Europa League home group stage matches (D5 L4), but have taken three points from each of their last five and are now unbeaten in 11 European home fixtures (W7 D4) since losing 0-3 to Feyenoord in December 2014.
- Arsenal’s next victory in the UEFA Europa League will be their 23rd in the competition, setting a new record for an English club. They are currently level on 22 with local rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Player to Watch
An injury early into the season had curtailed Reiss Nelson’s involvement heavily in what was slated to be the season in which he would make rapid strides in the Arsenal first-team setup. Nelson’s loss has been Bukayo Saka’s gain, with Nelson’s fellow academy graduate grabbing his chance with both hands.
Back to full fitness, Nelson ought to get a rare run out against Standard Liege. With Arsenal yet to qualify for the Round of 32, a strong showing by Nelson could make a case for more regular inclusion, possibly taking him ahead of Saka in the pecking order once again. A big game for the 20-year-old.
Standard Liege 1-2 Arsenal
The start to life under Freddie Ljungberg has been a rather mixed one for Arsenal. However, the come-from-behind 3-1 win over West Ham United, their first victory in over two months, ought to leave the Gunners feeling much better about themselves, especially when they are trying to improve their fortunes in Europe following a 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt last time out.
Up against Standard Liege, who have won each of their two home games in the Europa League this term, Arsenal have a huge challenge facing them. But, with several youngsters having a point to prove, a keenly contested affair should ensue, with the North Londoners having just enough quality to edge the tie.
The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for the visitors, a result that clinches top spot in Group F.