Arsenal will be hoping to book a place in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals when they lock horns with Slavia Prague this Thursday night.
The second leg of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals will be played out this midweek. Trophy-hopefuls Arsenal will travel to the Czech Republic as they gear up to take on Slavia Prague at the Sinobo Stadium, with a place in the penultimate stages of the competition at stake.
The first leg did not as per plans for Mikel Arteta & co. as they struggled to find the back of the net for large parts of the game. And when Nicolas Pepe did score one late on, Arsenal allowed Slavia Prague to equalise in stoppage time, meaning the contest ended in a 1-1 draw with the Czech giants coming away with a crucial away goal.
Following that disappointing outcome, Arsenal did bounce back strongly to register an impressive 3-0 win over Sheffield United in the Premier League to end a four-game streak without a victory. And, they will be hoping to carry that momentum forward.
Slavia Prague, meanwhile, beat local rivals Sparta Prague 2-0 at the weekend to make it 23 games unbeaten across all competitions. Indeed, the last time they lost a match was back in December 2020 to Bayer Leverkusen in the group stages of the Europa League. And Jindrich Trpisovsky’s men will back themselves to come out on top at home this midweek.
Ahead of what promises to be an enticing match-up on Thursday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
🎙️ Jindřich Trpišovský before #slaars: “Sima and Olayinka both joined the training. We suppose one of them will be available for the starting line-up, one of them only for a part of the game. We will decide tomorrow morning.” #UEL pic.twitter.com/k6ZaKOxu5P
— SK Slavia Prague EN (@slavia_eng) April 14, 2021
The home team have a near full-strength squad at their disposal for the visit of Arsenal with David Hovorka being the only player currently unavailable due to injury. Simon Deli has tested positive for coronavirus and will be unavailable but both Abdallah Sima and Peter Olayinka trained on the eve of the game and are expected to play a part against Arsenal.
Ondrej Kudela will miss out as well after he was handed a ten-match ban by UEFA for racist behaviour against Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara in the previous round. Slavia Prague manager Jindrich Trpisovsky will set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Thursday night, with Ondrej Kolar manning the goal for them.
Alexander Bah and Jan Boril ought to be the two full-backs who will need to manage the threat of the lively Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe while Tomas Holes and David Zima form the centre-back pairing. The entire backline is expected to stay tight and compact, with the full-backs unlikely to charge forward a great deal so as to deny Arsenal any space to work with.
Jakub Hromada and Peter Sevcik should slot in as the two central midfielders that will provide the backline a shield against Arsenal’s midfield runners. The creative onus will fall onto the shoulders of Nicolae Stanciu who will line up in the No. 10 slot. Supporting him from the wide areas should be Oscar Dorley and Olayinka.
Jan Kuchta should spearhead the attack for the Red and Whites with Sima an option from the bench in the latter stages of the game if needed.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Kolar; Bah, Holes, Zima, Boril; Sevcik, Hromada; Dorley, Stanciu, Olayinka; Kuchta
David Luiz and Kieran Tierney remain out injured for Arsenal. The likes of Martin Odegaard and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang missed the weekend clash and remain doubts for Thursday’s clash as well. However, both Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who picked up knocks against Sheffield United are expected to be available for selection while Emile Smith Rowe is also back in full training handing the Gunners a boost.
Mikel Arteta is unlikely to make a whole lot of changes to the side that performed well last time out. In goal, there is no looking past Bernd Leno while the centre-back pairing of Rob Holding and Pablo Mari should remain intact as well, meaning Gabriel Magalhaes misses out for a second game in a row.
No Aubameyang or Odegaard. Balogun and Azeez were involved in the training session. pic.twitter.com/PNH9Gjsxp5
— Z (@ZRAFC) April 14, 2021
Calum Chambers impressed at right-back at the weekend but given that he has only recently returned from an injury, he could be replaced with Hector Bellerin. Granit Xhaka started as a makeshift left-back against Sheffield United often tucking in as a third centre-back. However, he is likely to return to his natural habitat in midfield with Cedric occupying the left-back slot.
Xhaka should have Thomas Partey as his partner in the middle of the park. The latter had a good game at the weekend and must look to build on it after what has been a difficult debut season so far. The fit-again Smith Rowe should slot in as the No. 10 for Arsenal while Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe take up the flanks, meaning Gabriel Martinelli will be the unlucky one to miss out.
Alexandre Lacazette, who bagged a double against the Blades last time out, should once again spearhead the attack for Arsenal with Aubameyang’s availability yet to be determined.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Mari, Cedric; Partey, Xhaka; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Saka; Lacazette
- Arsenal are undefeated in ten of their last eleven matches in the Europa League.
- Slavia Prague have lost just one of their last ten matches in European competition (W6 D3) after having lost six of their previous eight (including qualifiers).
- Arsenal are without a single clean sheet in their last seven games in European competition – their longest such run since September 2017.
- Slavia Prague have played all of their last five Europa League games against British teams (Leicester City, Rangers, Arsenal) and are unbeaten in all the matches (W2 D3).
- On the last eight occasions where Arsenal drew the first leg of a two-legged European knockout tie, the Gunners progressed to the next round just four times. They have been eliminated the last three times they drew a first leg at home.
Player to Watch
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 8, 2021
While he may not be a regular in the Premier League matches but Nicolas Pepe has gotten opportunities in the Europa League this season and he has made the most of it to a large extent. Of all players still involved in the 2020-21 UEFA Europa League, only AS Roma’s Borja Mayoral (9) has been directly involved in more goals in the competition this season than Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe (7 – 4 goals, 3 assists).
Pepe was crucial in the 1-1 draw in the first leg as it was him who scored the goal after coming on from the bench. Handed a start at the weekend against Sheffield United, he once again put in a bright display. Mikel Arteta & co. will be hoping that the Ivorian is able to carry forward that momentum on Thursday night and take Arsenal through to the next round.
Slavia Prague 2-1 Arsenal
This is a close one to call. Arsenal haven’t been in the best of form for a while now but the weekend performance against Sheffield United showed what they can do if they get going. At the same time, Slavia Prague are on an amazing 23-game unbeaten run and are yet to lose a single game at home across all competitions this season.
While Arsenal have the tools and means to bring an end to that run, Slavia have prevailed against Leicester City and Rangers, two free-scoring teams, in the last two rounds of the Europa League. Plus, with the Gunners’ defence not entirely convincing, we are going for a tentative win for the home team.