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Arsenal v. Vorskla Poltava preview: Champions League, here we come

The Gunners kick off their European season by playing host to Ukrainian visitors.

Newcastle United v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Unai Emery won the Europa League three straight years with Valencia. Can he recapture that form at the Emirates?
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ok, so I may have jumped the gun a little bit with that headline. The Europa League is a long campaign that eventually whittles itself down to a few strong sides, as Arsenal discovered much to their chagrin last season.

Arsenal’s Match Day 1 opponent, Vorskla Poltava is not one of those strong sides. They currently sit 5th in the Ukrainian Premier League with a 4-0-4 record and a goal differential of -3. They have struggled away from home this season, losing 4 of 5 matches, including a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of league leading Shakhtar Donetsk.

While anything can happen when facing an unfamiliar side, Vorskla getting a result at the Emirates would be shocking - like 8-2 at Old Trafford shocking. Arsenal come into the match heavy favorites to take the full 3 points.

Unai Emery is expected to rotate his side heavily and rest as many Premier League regulars as possible. One regular unlikely to be rested is Nacho Monreal. With Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles still recovering from injury (but both expected back earlier than initially thought), Monreal is the only experienced left back available. 18-year-old Dominic Thompson trained with the first team, but I would be surprised if he got the start.

Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner, and Lucas Torreira are all expected to make their first Arsenal start on Thursday night. Konstantinos Mavropanos, Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny, and Danny Welbeck should also make the 11. I agree with the TSF readers that Alex Iwobi will be in the lineup, but I don’t think it will be in a solo striker role as your votes suggested.

Vorskla come into Thursday night’s match with issues at striker. Their leading scorer from last season, Yuriy Kolomoets, is a doubt, and reserve striker Denis Vasin is unavailable. They will also be without midfielder Vladimir Odaryuk.

With the Europa League starting and the Carabao Cup kicking off next week, the Gunners are getting into the meat of the season. Arsenal have 6 matches in the next 17 days - it would be nice to start that congested fixture list with a win.

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Vorskla Poltava

WHEN: Thursday, September 20th, 2018 12 PM PT | 3 PM ET | 8 PM BT

WHERE: Emirates Stadium, London

US TV: Paid streaming on the Bleacher Report Live platform / app. Spanish language broadcast available on UniMas if your cable/satellite provider carries that channel.

As a reminder, apart from the final, no Europa League matches will be televised in the US this season. Matches cost $2.99 to watch individually, $9.99 per month for every match from the Champions League and the EL live and on-demand, or $79.99 for the entire season.

Check out livesoccer.tv for all your international streaming needs. B / R Live streaming is only available in the U.S.

As always, please do not discuss links to illegal streams here.