Europa League Preview: Qarabag vs Arsenal

Europa League Preview: Qarabag vs Arsenal

Arsenal head into their Europa League encounter with Qarabag FK looking to extend their winning streak to seven matches in all competitions.

Qarabag play host to the Premier League side having suffered defeat to Sporting Lisbon in their opening game in Group E, leaving the Azerbaijani outfit with work to do in order to qualify for the knockout stages.

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Qarabag has been regulars in European competition since 2009, but the Horsemen are still waiting to break new ground by progressing through to the knockout stages of the Champions League or Europa League.

Manager Gurban Gurbanov deserves credit for ensuring that his side maintained their motivation to qualify for this competition, having missed out in the Champions League third qualifying round in a winnable tie against BATE Borisov in August.

The defeat at Sporting Lisbon has also sparked an improvement in their domestic form, with Qarabag netting nine times in their last three outings in Azerbaijan’s top flight.

Gurbanov’s key man is Innocent Emeghara who has started the season with four goals in five games, with the Switzerland international scoring three of those goals in his last two outings.

Arsenal manager Unai Emery has already used 21 different players across eight matches in all competitions, signalling that the Spaniard is aware that he must make full use of his squad throughout this campaign if the club is to achieve its goals.

The rotation will continue against Qarabag, and Danny Welbeck will be looking to continue a scoring run which has left the England international as the club’s joint top goalscorer in all competitions with four strikes.

Arsenal will be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Thursday’s fixture, with the playmaker absent due to the ongoing political conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Bernd Leno is likely to feature between the sticks due to a hamstring injury sustained by Petr Cech, but the likes of Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi could be rested having played every minute in the Premier League this season.

Sead Kolasinac could be given a start at left-back, while both Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi are in contention to be named in the centre of the park.

Danny Welbeck should feature in place of Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette, with Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah taking a place on the substitutes’ bench.

Sokratis Papastatopoulos may be brought back into the team having missed the last two games through injury.

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