Team news, stats, kick-off time ahead of Slavia Prague vs Arsenal in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is waiting on the fitness of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Slavia Prague.
The Gunners have been boosted by the availability of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, with the latter having missed Sunday’s win at Sheffield United due to an ankle injury and Saka coming off at Bramall Lane with a thigh problem.
Both will feature in Prague, with the tie finely poised following a 1-1 draw in last week’s first leg, but Arteta must assess Aubameyang (illness) and Real Madrid loanee Odegaard (ankle) after they sat out Tuesday training.
Arsenal will definitely be without David Luiz and Kieran Tierney (both knee).
Slavia Prague will again be without defender Ondrej Kudela, who had been provisionally suspended for the first leg but has now been banned for 10 matches by UEFA for racial abuse against Rangers’ Glen Kamara in the last-16 second leg at Ibrox.
He will now be ineligible for the next nine games played by either Slavia in Europe or his country, potentially including this summer’s European Championship.
The Czech side are facing a defensive crisis, having travelled with only one fit centre-back for the first leg. Simon Deli and David Hovorka will both remain absent this Thursday.
There are potential further problems for picking a team after Peter Olayinka and Abdallah Sima were both ruled out of Sunday’s Prague derby with health problems – but the two players could return in time for Thursday.
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Leno: Future without Europe unthinkable
Bernd Leno cannot imagine Arsenal not being in Europe next season and has urged his team-mates to go for the kill in Slavia Prague to keep alive their hopes of winning silverware this season.
Like in the 2019-20 campaign, Arteta’s side look to be relying on a cup competition, with their best route into the Champions League being to win the Europa League.
On the prospect of no European football for the first time since the 1995-96 season, Leno said: “When you think about the future without Arsenal in a European competition, it doesn’t feel right. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t come true because Arsenal belongs to Europe and that is our target.
“Slavia Prague have beaten good teams in the competition, I think we dominated them in our home game but you could also see they are very dangerous on counter-attacks, set-pieces so we know what we can expect.
“It will be a very tough game, especially away but we also know it is a dangerous result for us and also for them.
“Once we score one goal, they are under big pressure and that should be our target – to score the first goal and with a second goal, we can almost finish the game because they then need to score three goals.”
Arteta calls on big players to produce
Arteta is well aware results are how he will be judged at Arsenal and called on the “big players” at the club to step up in Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg at Slavia Prague.
Leicester and Rangers have already been knocked out of the competition by the Czech side this season and Tomas Holes’ stoppage-time equaliser at the Emirates last week has given them a crucial away goal in the tie.
He said: “Tangible is the right word and the only tangible thing is results. Whether you’re doing a good job or not, to judge it externally is only going to be judged with results.
“Internally, you know what you are doing and you can have many different ways of judging that but at the end of the day, externally results are the only important thing to give the perception that we are moving forward in the right direction.”
Defeat for Arsenal in Prague and an exit at the quarter-final stage would raise questions about the future of their manager.
But the 39-year-old insisted: “It’s very important for us and this is our club. There’s no individual interest, it’s all a collective interest that we want to do well in every competition.
“The game can put us in a position to go into the semi-final of a European competition. This is exactly where this club has to be and that’s why we have to do our best to earn that.”
- Slavia Prague are looking to reach a European semi-final for the first time since 1995-96 when they made it to the last four of the UEFA Cup before losing to Bordeaux.
- On the last eight occasions where Arsenal drew the first leg of a two-legged European knockout tie, the Gunners progressed to the next round just four times, while they have been eliminated the last three times they drew a first leg at home (v Liverpool in 2008 and Barcelona in 2010 in Champions League quarter-finals and v Atletico Madrid in 2018 in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals).
- Slavia Prague have lost just one of their last 10 European games (W6 D3), after losing six of their eight before that (incl. qualifiers).
- Arsenal are without a clean sheet in their last seven games in European competition, their longest run without a shutout since September 2017 – they last went eight without a clean sheet in Europe in a run of 15 ending in March 2002.
- Of players still involved in the 2020-21 UEFA Europa League, only Roma’s Borja Mayoral (9) has been directly involved in more goals in the competition this season than Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe (7 – 4 goals, 3 assists).