A preview which is so late it almost qualifies as a review, especially being the early kick-off. Sporting Clube de Portugal, a reminder of European glory for the older generation, at the Estádio José Alvalade, represents the toughest offering of this group stage and tougher when you travel with no left-backs.
Divination by press conference tells us Granit Xhaka starts, but surely in the middle – probably with Guendouzi – with Lichtsteiner at left-back and Carl Jenkinson on the right.
That’s not a youth player, by the way, it’s the right-back whose departure from the club is repeatedly foiled by injury. Cruel jibes about ability foiling his first-team ambitions are best left to others. Just think though, when the grandchildren are bouncing on his knee, he’ll tell them he was an Arsenal player with their exclamations of “Cor, blimey, grandpa! The same Arsenal what’s won the title 20 years running?!”
That’s before everyone climbs a chimney and dances on the roof. In this version, Mary Poppins isn’t a nanny and flying off on an umbrella is one helluva trip, man. Probably a good time to get back on track.
Anyway, Monreal and Kolasinac are suffering hamstring-twang but Petr Cech is back in training. So too Sokratis who may feature tonight in a back-three although Unai Emery seemed to ‘pooh-pooh’ the idea. He told his pre-match presser that it “is not the best for us because our composition with the players tomorrow”.
So there you have it; Mustafi and Holding or Sokratis and Holding. I’d probably feel more confident in the latter pairing with Mustafi pulling shapes in the dressing room.
Personal preference, etc.
Emery remains calm. “I think we are going to continue tactically how usually we are doing,” he said before offering a hint that he isn’t one-dimensional and beholden to one tactical scheme. “But for the next matches, it could be a possibility to [play three at the back].”
The key is finishing top of the group and at least a point here goes a long way to ensuring that happens. Unai holds an affinity for the competition, knowing the rewards it can bring.
I think this competition for every team is very important because first it is a title to play for and for other teams when you win this competition you go to the Champions League.Unai Emery on the Europa League
In short, you’ve got to be in it, to win it. And at the end of the rainbow sits the pot of gold the money men adore, the Champions League. It’s so much of a cash cow that FIFA tried to hijack it and call it the Club World Cup (Redux).
No wonder that UEFA
Anyway, that’s a longer game than tonight’s 90 minutes for which I’d expect the 90 minutes to be something like:
Leno; Jenkinson, Holding, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Ramsey, Smith Rowe, Welbeck; Aubameyang
Whatever the XI is, we’re good enough to win or not to lose, at the very least. I fancy our chances of three points which will more or less seal our passage to the knockout phase.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.