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Having secured a place in UEFA Europa League Round of 32 as group leaders, Arsenal’s final group stage encounter at Emirates against Belarusian champions BATE Borisov is irrelevant to them but the visitors will have a slender chance of making it to the next round if they clinch a win in such a tricky away outing.
The Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is thus set to rest his first-team regulars on Thursday night ahead of their Sunday’s trip to St. Mary’s against Southampton. They need to recover both physically, as well as mentally, following a painful 3-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester United last Saturday despite being the better side throughout the game. They have slipped to the 5th spot in the Premier League tally and need a win against the Saints to recover lost ground.
Injuries have always been a concern for the Gunners, but this season has been pretty dissimilar compared to the previous ones. Although Santi Cazorla remains a long-term absentee following his major heel injury, German centre-back Shkodran Mustafi remains the only other unavailable name who was forced to leave the pitch early against Manchester United with a thigh strain.
Wenger’s switch to the ‘back-three’ worked splendidly towards the end of the previous campaign and the French boss has decided to continue with a similar set-up this term too. Like their previous outings, Wenger is expected to field a 3-4-2-1 formation against BATE Borisov as well.
The Colombian custodian has struggled to get enough first-team opportunities and been second-fiddle to veteran Petr Cech. He, however, is set to return between the sticks since featuring against FC Koln in their previous Europa League outing.
Arsenal’s forgotten Frenchman has earned some minutes in Europa League outings and although he conceded a spot-kick against FC Koln and that was the difference between the two sides at Rhein Energie Stadion, Debuchy is tipped to retain his place and feature on Thursday.
The veteran central defender is set to hang up his boots at the end of this campaign but has shown defensive resilience whenever he’s been played. The German is set to lead the Arsenal backline on Thursday night.
The highly-rated English youngster has mostly been used as a sporadic option but is expected to feature on the left-hand side of the Gunners’ ‘three-man’ defensive line against BATE Borisov.
The youngster failed to secure a loan move last summer but is expected to depart when the window reopens in January. Chambers has failed to earn regular minutes since completing a move from Southampton but is set to enjoy game time against their Thursday night opponents at the Emirates Stadium.
Coquelin has lost his first-team status since Granit Xhaka’s arrival and injuries have ruined his progress in recent past. But he is set to return to the Gunners’ starting lineup this midweek and both Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey will be rested for the Southampton clash.
The Egyptian, too, is struggling to break into the first-team and the fixture against BATE Borisov will be an opportunity for him to stake a claim for a crucial squad role for the remainder of the season.