After Saturday’s somewhat embarrassing defeat to Watford, tonight could be a great opportunity to bounce back before our next league game against Everton.
Yet again, the Europa League is taking us into new territory with tonight’s opponents, Red Star Belgrade, welcoming us to Serbia at the Rajko Mitic Stadium for the first time.
With that in mind, there’s not much of a reference point to show what could be expected in our third group game of the tournament, but like every team, Red Star Belgrade are playing league football.
Last season they finished 2nd in the Serbian Superliga which saw them into the Europa League, however, this season has seen them win 10 of their 12 league games and move them top of the pile with four points and a game in hand over their competition.
Yes, this all sounds pretty good but I wouldn’t get too scared after reading that as BATE Borisov, who we beat 4-2 on the last Europa League matchday, had similar fortunes in their league so it’s not like we’re playing their Barcelona of Serbia.
However, one thing that the players should keep in mind from the Watford result, is that things can go very wrong if we underestimate teams.
Even against Borisov, there were spells in the game when the home team looked the more dangerous, so we’ll have to be smart on our travels and play a few experienced heads to get us another three points.
But, one positive of the Europa League is that due to the quality of opposition being considerably lower than the Champions League, we’re able to blood in young players like Reiss Nelson or re-emerging players like Jack Wilshere and tonight looks like another opportunity to do just that.
With Mathieu Debuchy picking up minutes for the under 23’s more regularly of late, Arsene Wenger was asked whether the Frenchman would feature tonight and he said:
“There’s a possibility that he will start.”
This also comes at a good time as, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of the picture, and Calum Chambers also suffering an injury setback, Debuchy stepping in could give Hector Bellerin a chance to rest for the more important Premier League games and be more effective, instead of having the responsibility of playing multiple times a week in a very physically demanding position.
So, a win tonight could even further help our cause to get to the next round as we push for 9/9 points, let’s just hope everything goes to plan.