With qualification all but wrapped up for Arsenal, the North London side can afford to rest players ahead of their trip to Burnley this weekend. (Having said that, I’d still prefer them to take this fixture seriously).
The home side, on the other hand, have an outside chance of qualifying and in order to remain hopeful of doing so, they need to beat Arsene Wenger’s side 2-0 and hope the game between Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov ends in a draw (preferably for the German outfit, 0-0).
The last meeting between the sides came in September with Arsenal fighting back from a one-goal deficit to win 3-1 with goals from Sead Kolasinac, Alexis Sanchez, and Hector Bellerin.
Hopefully, there will be no repeat of the actions that caused the September game to kick off an hour later.
Thoughts ahead of the game
Having already qualified, I’d expect to see a “third string” line-up, though I wouldn’t moan if a “half-strength” line-up was fielded. I’d like to see Arsenal shoot down any last hopes of Koln qualifying – by that, I mean Arsenal being ruthless.
FC Koln are in dire form in the league, having not won a single game and only taking two points, thus why they sit bottom. However, they have won three times – twice in the German Cup (away wins over Leher TS, and Hertha BSC), and once in Europe (beating BATE Borisov 5-2 at home) but they have not won since. A win here will not only give them faint hope but also give them a massive boost heading into the weekend’s fixtures.
Reiss Nelson (winger) and Eddie Nketiah (striker) both trained with the first team ahead of the trip to Germany. They were joined by Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock, who’ll both be raring to earn a starting spot.
The likes of Ben Sheaf, Jordi Osei-Tutu and Josh Dasilva also trained with the squad. With qualification already in the bag, Wenger will make a very likely choice to field a youthful team. (I’d still like to see some regular take part in some shape or form).
Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were both absent from training, which sparked a doubt as to whether they’d be available for Thursday evening’s clash. Should the pair not start, that could (in theory) see Nketiah given his first senior start. We’ve already seen what he’s like in the Carabao Cup, having scored twice against Norwich City.
Arsene Wenger was joined by Per Mertesacker ahead of Thursday’s clash.
“You will see a very experienced team tomorrow and see that every player has a big experience in the Premier League”
Going by that, we’ll most likely see a youthful line-up.
Per Mertesacker also spoke to the media about the weekend win and his memories of Cologne.
“It was a great example of fans and players bringing it all together. In the stands, on the bench, and on the field, we were together”.
Just goes to show what getting behind the team does really. If fans are in a voiceful mood, it rubs off the team.
“I’m looking forward to it. I played my first league game in Cologne. I was substituted after 45 minutes because it was so intense! It is very special”.
Let’s just hope sentiment doesn’t get the better of him…
As usual, I never predict the scoreline (for fear of “jinxing it”), but I hope to see Arsenal take maximum points from this. But given the likelihood of fielding an “understrength” side, that’ll be difficult…