Arsenal will play in their first Europa League match in 17 years on Thursday but will do so without a number of first-team players.
The Gunners take on Bundesliga outfit Cologne at the Emirates in what will be their first match in Europe’s secondary club competition since they lost the 2000 UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray on penalties, and manager Arsene Wenger is clearly expecting his squad options to see him through.
Multiple reports on Wednesday have alleged that Arsenal will rest as many as seven first-team players in anticipation of a massive Premier League clash with Chelsea this weekend.
Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Granit Xhaka, Dann Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette all sat out training on Wednesday, and look set to be left out of the squad for the Europa League opener. Interestingly, Alexis Sanchez looks set to play a role – possibly even from the start – as he looks to regain full fitness following a recent injury.
With Cech out, David Ospina is likely to start in goal, Per Mertesacker can expect to start in defence, Jack Wilshere seems almost certain to be handed a role in midfield, while Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi and Olivier Giroud will be vying for roles in the front three.
With BATE Borisov of Belarus and Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade the other sides in the group, Wenger will feel that if Arsenal can pick up three points against arguably the toughest opponents, it puts them in very good stead for the remainder of the group.
On this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we’re joined by Cork City captain Johnny Dunleavy to discuss the FAI Cup semi-final draw, and look ahead to this weekend’s EA Sports Cup final between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk.