Following the weekend defeat to Watford, Arsenal come into this match sitting top of the pile after winning their first two matches in Europe’s second-tier tournament.
The Serbian league leaders are coming off the back of a comprehensive 4-0 win over Macva Sabac. So, confidence from them should be high.
The last time the sides met was in the old UEFA Cup (a while before current group stage format came about) in the 1978-79 season. Back then, the Serbian side progressed to the quarter-finals with a 2-1 aggregate win. A win here (over both legs) will even the score!
We already know Santi Cazorla is out, so continuing to tell you why he’s out just seems repetitive. Joining him in the treatment room will be Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers, and Francis Coquelin.
Further selection headaches have been caused with Danny Welbeck limping off in the weekend defeat to Watford. It has been said teammate, Laurent Koscielny has suffered a muscular problem.
Speaking of Coquelin, and Koscielny, the latter joined training, whilst the former played a half of Arsenals Under-23 match against Sunderland.
As usual, Arsenal Wenger will ring in the changes, and we’ll expect an Olympic-style line-up.
Arsene Wenger began with talking about the chances of Mathieu Debuchy (who played with the Under-23s v Sunderland on Monday).
“It’s a possibility he starts tomorrow. He hasn’t played in a long time”.
The Frenchman [Wenger] has also been speaking about the “intimidating” atmosphere in Belgrade.
He voiced that his side can deal with the atmosphere given the experience in the Champions League. He also stated that a game with huge commitment is what is expected from everyone. (I surely hope that commitment is shown on the pitch on Thursday)!
Speaking about Theo Walcott, Wenger projected that he lost his place at the end of the season. Despite that, he’s “highly motivated, and focused”. Wenger also said that Walcott had a good game at BATE, and is back in good shape.
On the Europa League being used as a route back to the Champions League, Arsene Wenger had this to say:
“For us, it’s a trophy to potentially win. We want to do well in all competitions. In six days this week, we play Europa League, Premier League, and League Cup. We want to fight in every competition.
Its one of the routes, but not the only one”.
Thoughts ahead of the game
The respective forms of each side tells that this’ll be an interesting tie. Arsenal’s lose to Watford, coupled with Red Star Belgrade’s win would tell that the Serbian outfit are favourites (depending on your viewpoint).
I don’t know much about Red Star Belgrade, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be writing them off. We haven’t faced a side from Serbia since the 2010-11 Champions League. (Partizan Belgrade). On that occasion, we beat them 3-1 home, and away, but those results still saw us finish a typical second in the group…
Going back to Wenger’s last comment, I like that he doesn’t put all his eggs into one basket. Having said that, I reckon Europa League should be made “sub-priority” as that can be used to get back into the Champions League, but then again, the problem with going all the way (potentially) is that games will start to stack up in the second half of the season, and fresher legs will be needed.
I expect the Serbian side to come out fighting, looking to make it as difficult as possible for Arsenal. Having said that, I hope Arsenal come away with maximum points here!
Featured Image Credit: ctwino