If a Europa League fixture coming on the heels of a disappointing away draw seems familiar, it’s because it is. Two weeks ago, Arsenal blew a two-goal lead at Watford but bounced back in the EL to beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0. On Monday, Arsenal left Old Trafford feeling as if the full points were there for the taking. Will the Gunners bounce back against Standard Liège at the Emirates?
The Belgian side are in form; they’re unbeaten in their last five matches (4-1-0). During that stretch, they’ve scored 12 and conceded 3. They beat Vitória S.C. 2-0 at home in EL Matchweek 1. For more on Thursday’s opponent, check out our Know Your Opponent: Standard Liège post.
Even though their performances have left something to be desired, Arsenal enter Thursday’s game on a 6-match unbeaten streak of their own (3-3-0). Expect significant changes from the side that faced Manchester United at the weekend because the 3-day turnaround will force Unai Emery to rotate his squad. I expect starts for Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson, and Joe Willock. Bukayo Saka is an interesting case. He is pushing hard for first-team consideration and may be held out (or at least not started) on that basis, but he could still use the playing time to correct some mistakes and build confidence.
Unai Emery will be without Emile Smith Rowe, who is expected to miss another week with the head injury suffered against Nottingham Forest. ESR has had some bad injury luck lately; he would have started Thursday’s match. Alexandre Lacazette is still out with an ankle injury. I’d guess he won’t be back in action until after the international break.
In better news, both Héctor Bellerín and Kieran Tierney are expected to play again. Emery hinted that Bellerín may start and said that Tierney was held off the roster against United out of an abundance of caution.
Standard Liège manager Michel Preud’homme will be without striker Orlando Sá, center back Noë Dussenne, and Merveille Bokadi. All three are out long term and unlikely to play a role in the Europa League group stage.
An Arsenal win tomorrow gives the Gunners a strong grip on the Europa League group. Sure, a lot can happen in the last four matches, but playing from the top means that Arsenal can rest first-team players as needed rather than being forced into using them, tiring them out, and risking injury in a secondary competition.
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Standard Liège
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Thursday, October 3rd 12:00 PM PT | 3:00 PM ET | 8:00 PM BST
US TV: TUDN, formerly Univision, in Spanish. No English broadcast. Streaming on B / R Live ($$$).
For all your international streaming needs, check out livesoccer.tv. As always, please do not discuss links to illegal streams here.