Arsenal travel to Newcastle to take on a Steve Bruce side that has clawed it’s way (mostly) out of relegation danger. The Magpies sit 9 points clear of 18th-place Fulham with a game in hand. Newcastle have been playing well lately with just a handful of losses since February. The Gunners are mired in 11th place, their hopes of finishing in a European place almost completely extinguished; there’s too much ground to make up and too many teams to pass.
Newcastle’s run has been very much helped by Arsenal loanee Joe Willock, whose substitute goals have helped the Magpies to eight points. Willock is not eligible to play today against his parent club.
When the sides met twice in nine days in January, Arsenal bested Newcastle 2-0 in the FA Cup and 3-0 in the Premier League. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tallied three goals across the two matches.
Aubameyang returned to the lineup and managed a 10-minute substitute appearance against Villarreal as he works back from a bout with malaria. I’d expect another run-out for the striker today, with his fitness levels dictating the length. David Luiz is also back available for selection and was in the matchday squad in the Europa League. Kieran Tierney and Alexandre Lacazette were both close to being available in the midweek but fell just short of fitness. They may be in the squad today for a runout, or Mikel Arteta might opt to rest them to ensure they’re ready for this coming Thursday.
Steve Bruce will be without keeper Karl Darlow, centerback Jamaal Lascelles, midfielder and former Arsenal youth player Isaac Hayden, and winger Ryan Fraser, who are all out for the season. Centerback Fabian Schar will also not be available for the Magpies but hopes to play again this season following knee surgery.
I expect Mikel Arteta to heavily rotate his side today with all his focus being on Villarreal at the Emirates this coming Thursday.
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