Arsenal currently sit atop Group H with 9 points as the reverse fixtures begin. To kick things off, the Gunners play Red Star Belgrade tomorrow evening at the Emirates. The first time these two met, Arsenal downed a 10-man Red Star 1-0 on this fantastic goal from Olivier Giroud .
A win tomorrow would secure Arsenal a spot in the knockout round. The Gunners also progress with a draw if BATE Borisov do not beat Cologne.
Beating Red Star would more-or-less clinch the group for Arsenal as well. BATE would be the only team that could finish ahead of them, and to do that, BATE would need to win out, including beating Arsenal at the Emirates by more than 2 goals while scoring more than 4 AND Arsenal would also have to draw/lose at currently pointless FC Köln. Bottom line, not likely to happen.
Arsenal are in the midst of a good run of form - the Gunners are 10-1-1 since losing back-to-back matches at the end of August. More impressive is the club’s home unbeaten streak - they’re unbeaten in 16 competitive matches at the Emirates (15-1-0) dating back to last March.
For Arsenal, Sead Kolašinac is not available as he recovers from a hip injury (although he may be available Sunday). David Ospina is also not available. Calum Chambers returned to training on Monday and may be available.
So what will Arsenal’s back three look like? Mathieu Debuchy (about whom Arsene Wenger had some nice things to say recently) and Mohamed Elneny are locks to start. The third spot has typically belonged to Rob Holding, but the Kolašinac injury muddies things a bit. If Kolašinac can’t play Sunday, Nacho Monreal probably moves to left wing back and Rob Holding would move into the back three to face Manchester City.
As a result, Arsene Wenger may want to keep Rob Holding out against Red Star in case he has to play him Sunday. If so, look for either Calum Chambers or Josh Dasilva to round out the back three against Red Star. Of course, Holding is young, has played Wednesday-Saturday before, and the team doesn’t have to travel internationally, so Wenger could just play him in both matches.
After his dramatic two-goal substitute performance against Norwich, Eddie Nketiah has earned more playing time. He probably won’t start against Red Star, but he should get a significant run out as a substitute.
For Red Star, left back Milan Rodic is serving his one-match suspension for the red card he picked up against Arsenal last month. Look for Arsenal to exploit his replacement, Marko Gobeljic, who is primarily right-footed and not an out-and-out outside back.
So far this season, Arsenal’s reserves and younger players have been impressive in the Europa League and Carabao Cup. There’s no reason why that trend shouldn’t continue tomorrow at the Emirates.
Remember, the match will start an hour later than usual here in the US, because England has already gone onto daylight savings time.
WHAT: Arsenal v. Red Star Belgrade
WHEN: Thursday, November 2nd, 1 PM PT | 4 PM EST | 9 PM BST
WHERE: Emirates Stadium, London
US TV: Fox Sports 1
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