For Europa League Matchday 2, the Gunners are racking up the frequent flyer miles. They’ve traveled more than 1400 miles to Barysaw, Belarus for tomorrow night’s matchup with BATE Borisov. The Belarusian side drew 1-1 with Red Star Belgrade on Matchday 1 and sit third in the Belarusian Premier League only two points behind the leaders. BATE are experienced on European stage – they have qualified for the group stages of European competition each of the last seven seasons.
For those of you who are curious, BATE is an acronym for Borisov Automobile and Tractor Electronics. Wikipedia is great, isn’t it? Another fun fact: there is a military training ground recently used by the Russians for their Zapad exercise just to the east of BATE’s stadium (H/T @behnisch for pointing that out).
Arsene Wenger has named a youth-filled side for this tricky away match. He has repeatedly said that the club are focused on the Premier League and has called this week’s schedule “cruel.” Arsenal have three matches in quick succession – they played West Brom Monday evening, play tomorrow against BATE, and play again at noon on Sunday against Brighton.
Eight outfield first-team players have been left out of the side: Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolašinac, Hector Bellerín, Nacho Monreal and Alexandre Lacazette.
Interestingly, Alexis Sánchez is with the team in Belarus. Whether he starts or was just brought along as an insurance policy should Arsenal need a late goal remains to be seen. Either way, Arsenal will lean on the experience of Per Mertesacker, Theo Walcott, and Olivier Giroud to lead the side to victory. The Frenchman’s next goal for the club will be his 100th.
I will be especially focused on the play of Jack Wilshere. So far, he has looked solid in his appearances but has not had a signature game to show that he deserves first-team consideration. Wilshere needs to demand the ball, control the play, and drive the attack for Arsenal to be successful.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson both have a chance to build on their performances against Köln. The youngsters were solid against the German side, but apart from AMN displaying some serious pace, neither left their mark on the match. A mistake-free performance in this difficult away fixture would be an encouraging step forward for both.
This will not be an easy match for the Gunners. BATE are a strong, experienced side and are playing at home. Arsenal are fielding a young team that does not have much experience playing together. Sure, the team has the talent in the side to win the game, but the lack of pace at the back and the inexperience in the team are concerning. A draw would be a fine result.
WHAT: BATE Borisov vs. Arsenal
WHEN: Thursday, September 28th | 10 AM PT | 1 PM EST | 6 PM BST
WHERE: Borisov Arena, Barysaw, Belarus
US TV: Fox Sports 2
Check out livesoccer.tv for all of your streaming information outside of the US. Please do not discuss or share links to illegal streams here.