Our Europa League adventure continues as we travel to Belarus to take on BATE Borisov.
The Premier League has been an intense battle, but now Europe is back on and provides us with a very real opportunity to earn some glory.
Our opponent is becoming somewhat of a seasoned veteran in European competition, but they should be an obstacle we can overcome - especially as we did it last season with a weaker squad.
We defeated them 6-0 at The Emirates, and we also earned a 4-2 win in Belarus at the home of Borisov, who have won their domestic title on the last 13 occasions.
Can we expect the same again?
If we did, the tie would be as good as over, and with this being one of the few occasions where Borisov have earned a knockout stage spot, we are heavy favourites.
Another thing in our favour? The home team haven’t played since December where their domestic campaign ended.
Who can we count on to get us that valuable away win?
Mesut Ozil, Sokratis and Aaron Ramsey have not travelled with the party, which will make them favourites to play in the weekend, but it also means that our team will be a changed one.
Sokratis is now taking part in full training, but this match has come a bit too soon, so expect Mustafi to continue in his stead.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is now declared free from illness, but Mesut Ozil who was also ill, hasn’t recovered in time. Aaron Ramsey has a slight knee injury which sees him ruled out.
Petr Cech will continue to be our cup keeper, and Granit Xhaka is also fit again, so could keep out Lucas Torreira, who is clearly tired and in need of rest.
Player to Watch
BATE have former Gunner Alex Hleb in their ranks, but the 37 year old is not their main man. Stasevich created more goals than any other player in the Europa League group stages, so he will be a real handful. He will occupy the pocket of space between defence and midfield, so our anchor man will need to keep their eyes peeled for his presence, and harass him when he does have the ball.
How This Will Go
We should have this in the bag, right? BATE haven’t played in two months, and had a training camp in Turkey recently just to get a shade of fitness. Even Hleb agrees that they can’t play at 100 percent.
So, what we need is some intensity, especially in the second half. Keep it tight in the first, and when the home team are struggling to keep up, we start to stretch the game.
I expect our wide men to do the damage, so wach Sead Kolasinac wreak havoc on the left. Alex Iwobi could also profit, as when fatigue creeps in, concentration dips, which leaves space for runners - with Iwobi and Aubameyang possibly profiting.
We should not have any problem scoring, but if we can keep them out too?
We can kill this tie off here and now - leaving a second leg open for some of our promising youngsters and giving our integral members of our squad some breathing space.