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Arsenal v Belgrade - Europa League Match Preview

This match at home to Red Star may be overshadowed by the looming away trip to The Etihad on Sunday. Our team that takes to the field against Belgrade will be vastly different to the one that lines up against City. That may take the sting out of any readiness issues but it may also rob our team of focus.The match before a big game settles in the shadows and has the potential to set your team up nicely or trip them up so hard they are at sixes and sevens for the impending cataclysmic match.Our position in our Europa League group is a healthy one, but our visitors are perhaps the stronger of our fellow group members. Our win in Belgrade was a smash and grab of sorts - they didn’t technically dominate but our late goal was enough to grab the points. They kept it tight and their display gave us a heads up on what to expect from this game.Our usual pattern for our Thursday European games means players such as Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Mohamed Elneny get the nod. This has done us no harm whatsoever thus far and it will most likely continue. It also gives our kids another chance to impress. There seems to be only one bone of contention - does wonderkid Eddie Nketiah play?Surely after saving our bacon against Norwich in the Carabao Cup, the kid deserves a game from the start? If he does, what position will he play?That is a conundrum indeed. Primarily a striker, can the teen play behind Olivier Giroud? The probability is that Eddie will come off the bench. The team is a winning one and Nketiah may be wrapped up and unleashed for our Carabao Cup game against West Ham.A pleasant surprise has been the showings from Mathieu Debuchy. Frozen out through injury problems and repeatedly offered a way out by the club, the French defender has stood firm and he has seamlessly stepped into the side. He will most likely line up alongside Mohamed Elneny and Rob Holding in the backline.We have choices in midfield, and Francis Coquelin and Jo Willock performed well in Belgrade so could take the spots in the engine room. At wing-back, Ainslie Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson are fit and raring to go. Jack Wilshere simply must start, and his influence has been telling in his appearances so far. Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud will form the attack and give the away team a real examination with their contrasting styles.We have a five point cushion over second placed BATE Borisov so dropped points wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen, but as we defeated them at their home, a failure to win would mean we really dropped the ball. We could wrap up the group with a win and our two remaining fixtures would carry no pressure - so more of our kids could play.Plus, winning is a habit that is hard to maintain, easy to drop and even harder to pick up again. With City so close on the horizon, we need every bit of confidence we can muster. The Europa League could well be our best prospect for a trophy. It would also be great to get past the Last16 in a European tournament for the first time in a while…Predicted lineup - Cech, Debuchy, Elneny, Holding, Coquelin, Willock, Walcott, Wilshere, Giroud.Predicted Scoreline - 2-0 to The Arsenal