The trendy Arsenal narrative lately has been the disparity between the Gunners’ home and away form. SPOILER ALERT: it’s bad. Like Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace bad. In fact, the Gunners have the worst home-away point disparity in the Premier League.
Things have not been much better in the Europa League. Arsenal have lost both away knockout round fixtures. With the first leg of the Europa League Quarterfinal against Napoli coming at the Emirates on Thursday, there is a load of pressure on the Gunners to get a result. Of course you always want to get a result in the first leg of a tie, but it feels especially important that this Arsenal side win the home leg.
So far this season, the Gunners have risen to the occasion and have played their best football against the better clubs. When they needed wins (at home) against BATE and then against Rennes to stay in the Europa League, they got them. A list of Arsenal’s best performances would include the games against Tottenham, Manchester United, and Chelsea in the Premier League. The Gunners have answered the bell so far this season.
Napoli are a strong side. They’re in the midst of a dip in form but still sit seven points clear in second place in Serie A. They have a comfortable twelve point cushion to stay in a Champions League qualification spot. They are not catching Juventus to win the league. Their focus will be squarely on winning the Europa League.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side was bolstered at the weekend by the return Italy international Lorenzo Insigne. The Napoli striker and team captain has 13 goals and 7 assists for the club this season. Left back Faouzi Ghoulam has also returned from injury. In what some Arsenal fans will see as good news, David Ospina has been declared fit as well (there is no rule against loanees playing against parent clubs in the Europa League). In all seriousness, it’s good to see the Colombian keeper fit - his head injury and subsequent collapse on the pitch last month was scary. Finally, rumored Arsenal summer transfer target Kalidou Koulibaly has served his European suspension and is expected to start.
Both Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny returned to training on Wednesday after missing out at the weekend. They face late fitness tests for Thursday’s match. Koscielny is the more likely of the two to be available. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was limited to a substitute role against Everton due to illness, but Unai Emery said in his press conference that the striker was available to start.
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Napoli
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Thursday, April 11th 12:00 PM PT | 3:00 PM ET | 8:00 PM BT
US TV: Univision Deportes (SP). Streaming on B / R Live ($$$).
Check out livesoccer.tv for all your international streaming needs. Please do not discuss links to illegal streams here.