Arsenal will try to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat by Liverpool when they face Prague’s Slavia in the first round of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final tonight at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners, who beat Prague 7-0 at their last meeting in north London back in October 2007, saw their winless win extend to three matches on Saturday night as Jurgen Klopp drove them aside, in Diogo’s bracket Jote and a lone hit. from Mohamed Salah as he finishes the work.
The defeat by Liverpool left Arsenal’s already faint hopes of qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League via the Premier League table hanging by a thread, meaning their only real chance of returning to major European club football competition next season is through the Europa League.
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But despite the Gunners currently ten points behind fourth-placed West Ham United, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta refuses to throw a towel at Arsenal’s chances of finishing in the top four this season.
Addressing the media during his pre-match press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the Spaniard said: “While that is not mathematically possible, you have to fight. There is no other way to do it.
“We have to be realistic with where we are in the league and it is extremely difficult.
“But it’s mathematically possible so we have to stick to it.”
Although Arteta refuses to give up Arsenal’s chances of finishing in the top four, the Europa League remains the club’s only hope of winning the trophy before the end of the season, as they have been knocked out of both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.
Asked if a two-legged tie with Prague means all or nothing for Arsenal’s season, Arteta added: “Well, this competition is all or nothing because when you play a draw, you come in or you don’t.
“We want to be in the semifinals and we know how important the game is to us.”
But if Arsenal want to book a place in the last four competitions, they will have to get out of the Slavia Prague team that has already beaten Leicester City and Scottish giant Rangers in each of the last two rounds of knockouts, meaning they will act as a very rigorous test.
“They’re a really strong side,” Arteta said. “They weren’t defeated in the league. You see they have the ball. I think in the last few years, competing at the highest level, they’ve always been in the game and that’s really made it harder.
“[They’re] really competitive, brave, very direct and perceptive and a team that can create problems for you throughout the game.
“They never give up, they always have a top attitude and that’s why they beat teams because they’re a really good side.”
Ahead of tonight’s clash at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal were shaken by the news that left-back Kieran Tierney could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. The Scottish international was forced on Saturday shortly before half-time against Liverpool and it was quickly revealed that he was facing magic on the sidelines, but that he would not need surgery.
The worrying news of Arsenal’s injuries didn’t end there, as Arteta also faces anxious anticipation of Martin Odegaard’s availability. The Norwegian national team player, who is currently on loan at Arsenal from the Spanish giant Real Madrid, rolled his wrist while he was on international duty, but he was still considered capable enough to play a full 90 minutes of the clash with Liverpool.
However, it has now been confirmed that he has suffered more joint problems and is facing the possibility of missing the conflict with Prague, and Arteta has confirmed that a late check-up will be carried out.
Arteta said: “We will evaluate it today [Wednesday] about how he feels.
“He’s been injured for the last few days since he got injured with the national team. We have a few for the last game when we also played for Liverpool.
“It simply came to our notice then [Wednesday], probably the day we see where everyone is and who is available for tomorrow. “
Fortunately, Granit Xhaka, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka were all rated capable and available to choose from.
The summer transition period is just around the corner.
And the rumor mill is already starting to accelerate.
Arsenal will not have a huge amount of money to spend, but Mikel Arteta will hopefully pull a number of moves, and borrower Martin Odegaard is high on the list of priorities for reaching a lasting agreement.
But who would you sign? Join our discussion on the transition period here.
By the way, center-back David Luiz stays on the sidelines after recently undergoing minor knee surgery.
The complete Arsenal team is available against Slavia Prague:
Goalkeepers: Bernd Leno, Mat Ryan and Karl Hein.
Defenders: Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari, and Calum Chambers
Midfielders: Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Dani Ceballos, Mohamed Elneny, Martin Odegaard (if fit) and Emile Smith Rowe.
Strikers: Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli.