Arsenal will look to take another step towards qualification to the knockout stages of the Europa League when they take on Vitoria SC at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night.
Unai Emery has found himself under pressure following a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Monday night which has left the north Londoners sitting outside the top four in the league table.
The Gunners may have been inconsistent in the Premier League so far this campaign but their form in Europe has been faultless as they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 in Germany on Matchday 1 before thrashing Standard Liege 4-0 earlier this month.
It means Arsenal sit top of Group F on a maximum 6 points from their opening two games with Liege and Frankfurt joint second on three points so Emery’s men can take control of the group and all-but secure safe progress to the knockout with a win on Thursday.
Vitoria should be easy pickings for the north Londoners as the Portuguese minnows sit bottom of the group having yet to pick up a point following consecutive defeats to Liege and Frankfurt.
Arsenal have virtually a fully-fit squad to choose from as Alexandre Lacazette is fit again after recovering from an ankle injury that kept him out for six weeks. The Frenchman is expected to start having been named on the bench against Sheffield United.
The Gunners didn’t pick up any fresh injury concerns at Bramall Lane so Reiss Nelson is Emery’s only serious absentee as the England U21 international has been ruled out until November with a knee ligament injury.
Emery is expected to make a number of changes to his starting eleven as he once again rotates his squad in the Europa League. Emi Martinez should start in goal while Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi will expect game-time in defence.
Mesut Ozil could also feature after being axed from the squad against Sheffield United having fallen out of favour this season while Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli are expected to start in the Arsenal attack.
Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are also set to start after not featuring for Arsenal against Sheffield United on Monday night while Dani Ceballos and Lucas Torreira should also come back in to the midfield.
How to watch
It’s extremely difficult to get hold of Arsenal football tickets for Premier League games these days but supporters have more access to cup games as these matches aren’t as sought-after. The Emirates is rarely a sell-out on Europa League group stage nights so those who haven’t yet got a ticket should be able to get their hands on one before Thursday night. If you can’t make it to London then the match will be broadcast live on BT Sport 2, kicking off at 8pm.
Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from their shock defeat to Sheffield United and supporters are starting to question whether Emery is the right man to take the club forward following their disappointing start to the league campaign. However, in Europe, the Gunners have looked impressive.
Understandably, the Gunners are 1/4 odds-on favourites to win on Thursday night. For those who fancy an upset, the draw can be backed at 5/1 while Vitoria are available at a whopping 10/1. However, I can’t see past a home victory and think the Arsenal second-string will ease to another win on home soil. They put three past Frankfurt and four past Liege so I wouldn’t be surprised to see another big score on Thursday.
Emery’s men have an excellent home record and they are highly likely to rack up another comfortable victory against Vitoria. I’m going for Arsenal to win 4-0 with Martinelli among the scorers.