Napoli vs Arsenal: Unai Emery’s Best Available Gunners Lineup

​Arsenal travel to Naples on Thursday night as they attempt to defend their two goal advantage from the first leg of the Europa League quarter final clash against Napoli.

Emery’s side impressed last time out, and the the Gunners are looking to reach the final four of the Europa League for the second consecutive season.

Despite faltering away from home this season, Arsenal earned a hard-fought 1-0 win at Vicarage Road on Monday night as they picked up their first clean sheet on the road this season. Although a few regulars sat out of the game against Watford, Emery may be tempted to stick with certain players given the positive result.

Here’s a look at how the Gunners might line up on Thursday night:


Goalkeeper & Defenders

Petr Cech

Petr Cech (GK): The veteran stopper has been predominantly used as the cup keeper for Arsenal this season and is set to continue on Thursday night. The Czech goalie made some key saves in the first leg and will have a big job on his hands to keep a talented Napoli side out in the second leg.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (RB): Hasn’t put a wrong foot in since replacing Hector Bellerin in the Arsenal squad. The young Englishman made a brilliant block on the way to helping Arsenal keep a clean sheet at Watford and will hope for more of the same on Thursday.

Laurent Koscielny (CB): A big performance needed from the ​Arsenal captain, as he looks to lead his team to the semi-finals. He will need to ensure his team mates keep their cool in what will be a hostile atmosphere.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos (CB): The Greek international missed out on Monday’s victory over Watford through suspension. Therefore the enforcer at the back for Arsenal should be fresh and ready to start on Thursday night.

Nacho Monreal (LB): The little Spaniard has come back into the Arsenal team of late. The left-back berth will be taken by either Monreal or Sead Kolasinac, but the Spanish full-back is expected to be chosen for the defensive qualities that will be needed at the Stadio San Paolo.


Midfielders

Matteo Guendouzi

Lucas Torreira (CM): Arsenal’s midfield warrior shone in the first leg and his services will be needed again if Arsenal are to withstand the battle against ​Napoli. Having spent three years at Sampdoria, the Uruguayan will know what to expect when travelling to the Stadio San Paolo.

Matteo Guendouzi (CM): Having not started since Arsenal’s defeat at Everton, the young Frenchman is expected to return to the lineup to sure up the Gunners’ midfield against a strong Napoli team.

Granit Xhaka (CM): The Swiss midfielder may make up a more defensive midfield three for Arsenal due to their advantage going into this tie. Xhaka’s set-piece prowess could be key for Arsenal’s hopes of grabbing a vital away goal.


Forwards

Alexandre Lacazette

Alex Iwobi (RW): The Nigerian’s pace and trickery could prove the difference in this fixture, as Arsenal will look to play on the counter-attack. Iwobi’s quality delivery from out wide will give the Napoli defence something to think about on Thursday.

Aaron Ramsey (LW): In what will be ​Ramsey’s last match on Italian soil before making the move to Juventus in the summer, the Welshman will be keen to impress. His goal early in the first leg set Arsenal on their way and the midfielder will be looking to finish the job at the home of his future rivals.

Alexandre Lacazette (ST): The Frenchman didn’t play a single minute away to Watford on Monday and is expected to come in for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Napoli. ​Lacazette’s ability to produce something out of nothing could come in handy against Napoli as the Gunners expect to have less of the ball than they did in the first leg.

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Bayern Munich Ready to Rival Arsenal in Race to Sign Ajax Playmaker Hakim Ziyech

Bayern Munich and Arsenal are both keen on signing Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech, with the Moroccan having put in a number of eye catching performances this season.

The 26-year-old was one of the stars of the show as Ajax surprisingly knocked Juventus out of the Champions League this week, following on from their superb victory over holders Real Madrid in the round of 16.

His continued form has reportedly attracted the attention of Bayern, with the Bavarians preparing to replace long serving duo Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery this summer.

Niko Kovac

According to German publication ​Süddeutsche Zeitung, Niko Kovac’s side are keen to explore the possibility of signing him this summer, though they do face competition for his signature from Premier League duo Arsenal and Chelsea.

Indeed, the Gunners are preparing for life after Aaron Ramsey and they could be tempted to make an offer for Ziyech, as they look to expand their creative midfield talent.

But with a reported transfer value of around €35m, however, any clubs preparing a bid will have have to part with a sizeable amount of cash in order to persuade Ajax to sell one of their star assets.

The former FC Twente star – who has scored an impressive 15 goals in the Eredivisie this season – has taken centre stage in Ajax’s outstanding Champions League campaign, and was instrumental in their remarkable 4-1 victory over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ajax will be keen to put the rumours to one side for now, with Ziyech and his teammates preparing for the club’s first Champions League semi-final appearance since 1997 – with his success in Amsterdam perhaps a factor in whether or not he opts to move on at the end of the season.

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Napoli vs Arsenal Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

Arsenal travel to the Stadio San Paolo on Thursday night looking to defend their 2-0 aggregate lead, as they aim to progress to the semi-final stage of the Europa League for the second year running.

​Standing in their way is a Napoli side who have lost just once at home all season – a 2-1 defeat to runaway Serie A leaders and Champions League hopefuls, Juventus.

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In order to progress, the Gunners will need to arrest their poor away record this season. Unai Emery’s team have lost their previous two away games in the Europa League to BATE Borisov and Rennes.

Their poor form on the road will boost the confidence of Carlo Ancelotti and his team, as they look to end their season on a high with a rare piece of silverware. As Juve sit one win away from the Serie A title, the Naples side can afford put all their eggs in the Europa League basket.

Check out 90min’s preview of this fixture below.


Where to Watch

When Is Kick Off? Thursday 18th April​
What Time Is Kick Off? 20:00 (BST)​
Where Is It Played? Stadio San Paolo​
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport 2​
Referee? Ovidiu Alin Hategan​

Team News

Lorenzo Insigne made his comeback from injury in the first leg of this tie, though he did not look match fit as he remained ineffective for large parts of the game. This may force Ancelotti to reconsider his options for the second leg, meaning Arkadiusz Milik​ could return to the starting lineup after he grabbed a goal in ​Napoli‘s 3-1 victory at the weekend.

Elsewhere, Kevin Malcuit will be hoping for a call up for this tie, as he has impressed when deputising for first choice right-back Elseid Hysaj this year.

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For the ​Gunners, Sokratis could to return to the starting lineup after missing Monday night’s victory over Watford through suspension. However, fellow Greek national Dinos Mavropanos may keep his spot at centre-back as he helped his side earn their first away clean sheet of the season at Vicarage Road.

Lucas Torreira is a slight concern as he struggled with a groin injury on Monday night. Emery insisted that the Uruguayan will not miss any games, but with the perfectly capable Matteo Guendouzi available, the Gunners boss may not take the risk.


Predicted Lineups

​Napoli Meret; Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Rui; Insigne, Allan, Zielinski, Ruiz, Mertens; Milik​
​Arsenal Cech; Maitland-Niles, Koscielny, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Guendouzi, Xhaka; Ramsey, Iwobi, Lacazette

Head to Head Record

Interestingly, in all three meetings between these two clubs​, the home side has won by a scoreline of 2-0. A repeat of this result on Thursday night would see the game go to extra-time.

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Before meeting in this Europa League campaign, the two sides came head to head in the 2013 ​Champions League group stages. Despite both games ending in 2-0 home wins, it was only the Londoners who progressed to the knockout stages, as the Naples team missed out on goal difference.


Recent Form

Despite their terrible away record this season, the north London side will take confidence from their 1-0 victory over Watford on Monday night in what was their first clean sheet on the road in the Premier League this season.

Despite their reputation for a weak defence, Arsenal have conceded just one goal in their last six games. Another solid defensive performance on Thursday will see the Gunners go through to the final four.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang,Ben Foster

Napoli on the other hand, haven’t kept a clean sheet since the end of February and will almost certainly need to change that to stand a chance in this fixture.

To reach the semi finals without the aid of extra time, the Partenopei will need to score at least three goals – a feat they have managed on seven occasions already in 2019.

Here’s how the two teams have performed in their previous five games:

Napoli Arsenal
​Chievo 1-3 Napoli (14/04) ​Watford 0-1 Arsenal (15/04)
​Arsenal 2-0 Napoli (11/04) Arsenal 2-0 Napoli (11/04)
Napoli 1-1 Genoa (07/04) ​Everton 1-0 Arsenal (07/04)
​Empoli 2-1 Napoli (03/04) Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle (01/04)
​Roma 1-4 Napoli (31/03) Arsenal 3-0 Rennes (14/03)

Prediction

The home fans are sure to create a hostile atmosphere for the Gunners on Thursday night and it will be a test of the Premier League side’s mettle over the course of the 90 minutes.​

Not very comfortable away from home, an early goal for Napoli could spell trouble for Arsenal. Emery will be looking to look to frustrate Ancelotti’s team and keep things tight for as long as possible.

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However, Arsenal will be quick on the counter-attack and they may have what it takes to get that vital away goal on Thursday night.

Prediction: Napoli 2-1 Arsenal

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Transfer Rumours: Grimaldo to Real Madrid, Manolas to United, Sane to Bayern & More

​With every passing minute, we move closer and closer to the opening of the summer transfer window, and the rumours and merry-go-rounds that will inevitably follow.

Some of Europe’s biggest stars could be on the move in just a matter of weeks, but there are plenty of juicy rumours to keep you going until the window opens.

Here are five stories for you to keep an eye on.


Arsenal to Activate Buy-Back Clause for Ismael Bennacer as Napoli Lodge €16m Bid

Ismael Bennacer

If you’re an ​Arsenal fan who has never heard of Ismael Bennacer, chances are you’re not alone. The Algerian midfielder made just one appearance for the club in a League Cup fixture in 2015, before being shipped off to Empoli for what feels like pocket change in 2017.

However, according to ​Le 10 Sport, the Gunners inserted a buy-back clause in the deal, and they could look to activate that and bring the 21-year-old back to the Emirates Stadium this summer.

​Napoli are said to have already submitted a €16m bid for Bennacer, who has enjoyed an impressive debut season in the ​Serie A, so Unai Emery might have to act fast if he wants to win this race.


AC Milan Not Giving Up on Yannick Carrasco

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In January, ​AC Milan‘s pursuit of Dalian Yifang winger Yannick Carrasco dominated headlines in Italy. They simply couldn’t pry him away from the Chinese Super League side, but they’re ready to try again.

​Calciomercato claim that Milan chiefs met to discuss summer transfer targets, and Carrasco’s name cropped up again and again. They still want the former ​Atletico Madrid man, but perhaps only if they cannot land other targets.

​Everton‘s ​Richarlison and ​Watford‘s Gerard Deulofeu are said to top their wish list, but Carrasco is their backup option. The ​Premier League sides will likely put up a fight to keep their stars, meaning the Rossoneri could be forced towards Carrasco.


Real Madrid Want Former Barcelona Wonderkid Alex Grimaldo

Alex Grimaldo,Lasse Schone

​Real Madrid have found themselves linked to every player under the sun in recent weeks as Zinedine Zidane plots a huge squad overhaul. One man linked with the club in Benfica wonderkid Alex Grimaldo, and this story may have some legs.

News of Los Blancos’ interest comes from The Sun (via ​Marca), who state that they want the former ​Barcelona starlet to replace ​Marcelo, who could be on his way to ​Juventus.

Will Real fans overlook his time with Barcelona? Will the Blaugrana faithful ever forgive him for turning out for their arch rivals? Grab a cup of tea, this could be an interesting one.


Man Utd Ready to Reignite Interest in Roma Star Kostas Manolas

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​Manchester United have been linked with Kostas Manolas for what feels like an eternity but, just as the rumours began to disappear, they have come back in full force.

It looked as though they had moved on from the Roma man, with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and ​Toby Alderweireld on their shopping list, but Leggo claim Manolas’ £31m release clause is just too good for the Red Devils to turn down.

Manolas has been one of the Serie A’s top defenders in recent years, so £31m looks like an absolute steal in today’s market. After all, that’s less than ​Chelsea paid for ​Danny Drinkwater, and just look how well that has worked out.


Leroy Sane Frustrated With Man City Role as Bayern & Juventus Ready Bids

Leroy Sane

Given ​Manchester City have what feels like 40,000 star forwards, you can understand how one of those players could grow frustrated with a lack of first-team action. Unfortunately for the Citizens, it looks like that’s exactly what has happened to Leroy Sane.

According to ​TEAMtalk, the German is less than impressed by his rapidly decreasing standing in Pep Guardiola’s squad. He has started just seven of the last 18 games, featuring in cup ties against the likes of Newport County and ​Swansea City, and it seems he has had enough.

Those around Sane believe that, if the 23-year-old tries to force an exit, Juventus and ​Bayern Munich would be incredibly keen to sign him. He almost certainly would not come cheap, but that rarely seems to matter these days.

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Nicolas Pepe: The Contenders to Sign Him & Where He Might End Up

​One of the hottest prospects in world football right now, it’s fair to say Nicolas Pepe has enjoyed a real breakthrough campaign at LOSC Lille.

The Ivorian has had a blistering season in front of goal, with 19 strikes in just 32 Ligue 1 appearances this season, whilst he has also shown off his playmaking skills with a further 11 assists. 

Pepe’s ‘double-double’ has attracted interest from many of European football’s biggest sides this season, and as such, below is a look at some of the teams linked with a summer move for the winger, and how likely a move to each club actually is.


Paris Saint-Germain

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In producing one of his best displays against the Parisian giants, Pepe undeniably jumped up the pecking order of potential summer targets for PSG. The winger scored one and made another two as Lille thrashed the reigning Ligue 1 champions 5-1 on Sunday, and ensured that they delayed Thomas Tuchel’s men from lifting the French title for at least another week.

With the futures of superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe relatively uncertain amid reports linking the pair with Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, Pepe’s name may just begin to crop up more in Paris. The 23-year-old never seems to be overawed by the occasion, and has time and time again stepped up for Christophe Galtier’s side this season​, and if either of PSG’s big money signings departs this summer, Pepe could be the man to step into those massive boots.

Likelihood rating: 4/10


Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjae

With a director of football likely to be brought in to help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with bringing in new faces, Pepe’s name is likely to figure prominently at Old Trafford. ​United’s Norwegian boss has shown tactical flexibility in his short time in charge of the club, but has predominantly favoured formations with wingers, and with just Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford the main options, a new wide man may be on the cards.

Juan Mata has sometimes played on the flanks but looks set to leave the club at the expiration of his contract this summer, while Sanchez has been well below-par since his arrival from Arsenal last year. Pepe’s potential arrival would free up ​Rashford to play up top where he has excelled in recent months, and Solskjaer’s preference for the counter-attack would look all the more devastating with a front three of Martial, Pepe and Rashford.

Likelihood rating: 5/10


Inter

Luciano Spalletti

In what is expected to be a long drawn-out saga this summer, it is Serie A giants Inter who have made the first move in the race to sign Pepe. France Football claim that the Nerazzurri have tabled a bid worth €60m for the winger, and that the Italian side have been in ‘constant contact’ with Lille in recent weeks over negotiating a move. 

Croatian star Ivan Perisic was on the verge of joining Arsenal in the January transfer window, and could well be allowed to move on, and as such a replacement would be sought. Whether Pepe would see joining ​Inter as a more attractive proposition than some of the other clubs featured on this list remains to be soon, and with Lille expecting a bidding war to take place, Luciano Spalletti’s side could well find themselves priced out of a move.

Likelihood rating: 6/10


Arsenal

Unai Emery

Linked with ​Arsenal for what feels like an eternity, Pepe seems to fit everything that Unai Emey seems to want in terms of an attacking acquisition this summer. The Gunners look woefully short of depth and competition in the wide areas, with only Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as what you would describe as more orthodox wingers.

While both are great with their feet and look suited to the Arsenal ‘tiki-taka’ style, neither seem the best when it comes to electric speed and direct dribbling. Step up Nicolas Pepe. The Ivorian relishes one-on-one situations with the opposite full-back, and having that ability to do something out of the ordinary and conjure up a bit of magic for the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to feed off is exactly what Emery’s side need. How likely they are to sign him will surely depend on how the Gunners end the season. 

Reports have suggested just £40m will be made available for Emery, but securing Champions League football next year could raise their transfer kitty by another £30-£40m. Finish in the top four or win the Europa League, and the Gunners will be serious contenders for one of the brightest stars in European football.

Likelihood rating: 7/10 


​Bayern Munich

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Seemingly the early frontrunners for Pepe’s signature, ​Bayern are intent on completely rejuvenating their squad after what ultimately has been a rather disappointing season. The Bavarian giants are still battling for the Bundesliga title, but fell short at the last 16 stage of the Champions League to Liverpool, and were, in truth, made to look rather ordinary by Jurgen Klopp’s side.

With a deal for Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernandez already tied up, reports have suggested attentions have now turned towards pushing through a move for Pepe. Bayern legends Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are well into their mid-30s and set for a move away at the end of the season, and the prospect of lining up with a wide duo of Pepe and Kingsley Coman appears to be a tantalising prospect. 

With the Ivory Coast international’s price likely to be upwards of €80m, Bayern will have the edge over Arsenal when it comes to being able to afford the winger, and that could make all the difference this summer.

Likelihood rating: 9/10


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