Once again, it’s the biggest game of the season for Arsenal when they host Villarreal on Thursday night.
Languishing in midtable in the Premier League, the club absolutely need to win the Europa League in order to regard this campaign as remotely successful.
Mikel Arteta has some key players injured, but equally a few are returning and following a good performance from his rotated squad at Newcastle, the Spaniard has a decision to make in terms of the Gunners line up. Each selection could have a major impact on the clubs future in Europe and potentially even Mikel’s at the club.
Have a look how I think we could line up for the game below. Disagree? Create your Arsenal XI at the bottom of this article.
Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno
Leno is likely to come back in between the sticks, despite an impressive, albeit relatively untested, performance from Mat Ryan against Newcastle. It’s essential the German steps up and performs in this semi-final. If he can keep a clean sheet, it’ll give the Gunners a great chance of going through as they’ll only need to score once.
Defenders: Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari, Kieran Tierney
Guessing the Arsenal back four for this game is an almost impossible task. With the injury to David Luiz, it leaves Arteta with a problem. Traditionally Gabriel Magalhaes and Holding have not worked well together, which means it may again be the pair of Holding and Mari. At left back, it could once again be Granit Xhaka, but Kieran Tierney is back in full training and with the game of the utmost importance, you’d expect him to feature. At right back it’s another interesting conundrum. Calum Chambers has shown glimpses of quality lately, but Bellerin came into the side and did well at Newcastle. Hector also has experience of these big games.
Midfielders: Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Nicolas Pepe
Partey and Xhaka are likely to be back at the heart of midfield. With Tierney fit again and Ceballos suspended, it seems very likely that the duo will be reunited. Elneny is another option and giving his improved goalscoring, he could play a part. Saka and Smith Rowe were completely rested for the Newcastle game, so they are likely to start. Pepe impressed last week and should be rewarded with a start again. It’s a difficult selection in those more advanced midfield roles though, with Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli also in contention.
Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Auba and Arteta will have been delighted with the forwards second half goal on Sunday afternoon. His instinctive penalty box movement was followed by a decisive finish. That’s the kind of movement and finishing that is needed on Thursday if Arsenal are to advance. Lacazette is back in training and likely to be an option from the bench.
How would you line up? Create your XI below and share it on social media!