The Unai Emery derby is finally upon us as Arsenal travel to Spain to take on Villarreal in the first leg of this season’s Europa League semi-final.
This is undoubtedly Arsenal’s biggest game of the season. We have nothing to play for in the Premier League and the only way we can salvage what has been a disastrous campaign is by winning the Europa League.
Mikel Arteta faces his predecessor, who also happens to be the most successful manager in the history of the competition. That, however, is no excuse to not come away with a positive result from the game tonight.
For the first time in ages, Arteta had some excellent news on the injury front in his press conference yesterday.
The Arsenal boss confirmed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Kieran Tierney are all in contention to start against Villarreal tonight. (Arsenal.com) Martin Odegaard returned last weekend, while David Luiz has also been pictured in training, which is a huge boost for us.
Arteta has all the options he needs for the game against Villarreal. We expect him to name a very strong, yet cautious, lineup.
Tierney on the bench, Auba starts
Bernd Leno keeps his place in goal and the pressure is on him. The German made a real mess against Everton last weekend and he has come under some serious criticism. He will have to be at his best against Gerard Moreno and co tonight to silence his doubters.
Calum Chambers starts at right-back with Rob Holding and Pablo Mari starting in the heart of defence. Arsenal are a lot more assured at the back when the Spaniard starts, which is why Gabriel will have to settle for a spot on the bench.
The big decision Arteta has to make is about Kieran Tierney. The Arsenal boss revealed that he is in contention to play, but we cannot imagine the Scotsman being risked from the start tonight.
As a result, Granit Xhaka keeps his place at left-back.
Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos pair up in the middle of the park. The former was very average against Everton last time out, and he will have to be at his best against some familiar opposition later tonight.
Martinelli, Laca and Nketiah all on the bench
Bukayo Saka keeps his place on the right with Martin Odegaard getting the nod from the start in attacking midfield. Emile Smith Rowe is moved to the left flank – a position where he excelled in against Tottenham in the North London derby last month.
With Eddie Nketiah getting a goal against Fulham and Lacazette returning from injury, Arteta has a tough decision to make up front. We feel that he will go with Aubameyang tonight as it looks like the Gabon star has fully recovered from the Malaria he picked up on international duty.
Starting Lacazette would be a huge gamble, especially as he suffered a muscular injury against Fulham. We expect to see him on the bench, alongside the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Willian and Tierney.