Freddie Ljungberg’s side travel to Belgium with qualification for the next round of the Europa League all but secure, barring a thrashing from Standard Liege
Standard Liege v Arsenal – Europa League
Venue: Stade Maurice Dufrasne
Kick Off: 17:55
TV Channel: BT Sport
Arsenal will be looking to secure qualification from their Group in the Europa League, and will do so by avoiding a five-goal defeat to Standard Liege on Thursday. Liege themselves are relying upon either an unlikely thrashing of Arsenal, or a win coupled with Frankfurt failing to take all three points against Portuguese side Vitoria, so the chances for Liege’s qualification are realistically slim.
The Gunners come into the game fresh from a first win in nine, courtesy of a 3-1 win over West Ham on Monday night at the London Stadium. Goals from Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired Arsenal to the three points, and gave Ljungberg a first victory in charge of the Gunners. However, there were still concerning signs as they struggled for long periods of the game, falling behind in the first half to Angelo Ogbonna’s opener, and the defensive frailties in past weeks will be hard to overlook. Susceptibility to counter attacks were evident in a draw at Norwich, whilst Brighton showed they can be undone off set pieces, so there will be plenty of hope for Liege heading into the tie, particularly against an Arsenal side riddled with injuries.
Hector Bellerin was injured in the warm up against West Ham, whilst Kieran Tierney was injured after twenty minutes, adding to an injury list which has already has Dani Ceballos and xx to its name. It could be another rotated side with Manchester City awaiting Arsenal on Sunday, with David Luiz expected to partner Rob Holding if passed fit at the back. Sead Kolasanic and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be expected to start at the back, whilst youngsters Bukayo Saka and Reiss Neson could get a chance to impress up front. Alexandre Lacazette missed out on Monday, so he could be given a chance to impress against the Belgian side.
Liege themselves come into the game third the Belgian Pro League, and on the back of a 2-2 with Mechelen on the weekend, were two of their players saw red. Their games have been packed with goals in recent weeks, and there are a number of players to look out for, including top scorer Maxime Lestienne and creative midfielder Paul-Jose M’Poku. However, they were blown away 4-0 in the opening fixture against Arsenal, and seeing them get the required victory is hard to see.
It is hard to see past Arsenal qualifying; however, their dreadful away record does call for concern, and Ljungberg will be keen for another victory to put his name in the hat for the job after Monday’s victory.
Standard Liege are without Orlando Sa, Noe Dussenne and Anthony Limbombe
Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are expected to miss out after picking up injuries on Monday. Dani Ceballos is out, whilst Rob Holding is a doubt.
Head to Head:
Standard Liege Wins – 0
Draws – 0
Arsenal Wins – 5
Arsenal have won the previous five meetings with an aggregate score of 19-2
Gabriel Martinelli is top scorer for Arsenal with three goals
Standard Liege have seen 13 yellow cards in just 5 Europa League games
Standard Liege Last 5: W D W W D
Arsenal Last 5: D L D L W
Standard Liege will be looking to get on the front foot, and up against a leaky Arsenal defence that has shown susceptibility to many different threats this season, it would be no surprise to see the Belgian side score against Arsenal. An xGa domestically of 23.91 highlights Arsenal’s worries, and the backline has been less than convincing, particularly if Shkodran Mustafi is forced to return ahead of injury doubt Rob Holding. With Arsenal themselves still possessing a strong attacking threat, it is hard to argue with a both teams to score (1/2) verdict, especially given that Standard will be chasing a volume of goals for their qualification hopes.
Moving onto the anytime goal scorer markets, there is a stand out option for Arsenal in French striker Alexandre Lacazette. Priced at 21/20, he will be supplied by exciting youngsters Saka and Nelson, who will be keen to make their mark on the first team given their indifferent form. The selection of Gabriel Martinelli on Monday will give them belief that chances will be forthcoming for Arsenal if the performances match their potential, and their creative talents should create chances for the more experienced striker Lacazette, who will be keen to show his class against weaker opposition.