Arsenal travel to Belarus for the second game in their Europa League campaign, and it looks likely that some young players will be given their first taste of European football against BATE Borisov on Thursday.

Following on from the successful premiere Europa League match against Cologne a fortnight ago – Where Arsenal came out 3-1 winners - manager Arsene Wenger has made the conscious decision to omit many of his regular starters from the squad making the 2,800-mile round trip, as he believes that having three games in six days necessitates such rotation.

Those left out include Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey, Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny – all of whom started against West Bromwich Albion in the victorious league game on Monday evening – but their omissions open the door for some fringe players to make an impact.

Graduates from the Arsenal Academy Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock are all expected to feature in the match against the Belarusian champions, although on the eve of the game, Wenger has noted that this comes with the caveat that they will be judged harshly saying:

'This is the kind of job you do not get 10 opportunities to play for Arsenal. When you get it, even if they only get 20 minutes, you have to convince people you have the qualities to do it and you have the courage to play and show your qualities.

'There is always an uncertainty. We know in training, you see in training that the player has the quality. Yes, he is here because he has the qualities. After, to show it during competition is something different. And in my experience, you only discover that during the competition.'

Also set to feature in the squad from Arsenal’s youth set-up are goalkeeper Matt Macey, strikers Chupa Akpom, Josh Dasilva and Eddie Nketiah.

With so many youthful players in the squad, Wenger will be looking to strike a balance with his more experienced players. With a 3-4-3 formation likely, defender Per Mertesacker, who will captain the side, brings that experience in bucket loads, and will be marshalling the team from the centre of defence.

Behind him will be second-in-command Columbian goalkeeper David Ospina, who was at fault for Cologne’s terrifically manoeuvred goal in the first Europa fixture, but recovered well.

Flanking Mertesacker will likely be Rob Holding and Shkrodan Mustafi, with aforementioned youngsters Nelson and Maitland-Nile playing further up the pitch as part of the four in midfield, with Mohamed Elneny and Jack Wilshire between them.
With Willock expected to start, the final two forward positions will likely be filled by experienced heads Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.

In terms of the opposition, while BATE may not play home to any particularly notable names, they will not be pushovers, especially in the oft-hostile Borisov Arena.

Currently 3rd place in the Belarusian Premier League (but only 3 points off the top), BATE finished last season by winning their 13th league title, their 11th in a row, and while perhaps Belarusian football may not be that well renowned, that’s undeniably impressive.

The Belarusians, who drew 1-1 away to Red Star Belgrade in their first fixture of this Europa League campaign (with midfielder Nikolay Signevich scoring an equalizer late-on), will be out to draw blood from the side that once played home to their most famous son, Aleksander Hleb.

Midfielder Hleb, who played for his nation’s most successful club on four separate occasions, and the man who played for the Gunners between 2005-2008 (featuring in the 2006 Champions League Final against the club he would eventually move to, Barcelona) has been a big part of the build-up to Thursday night’s game, stressing that he believes the Europa League could potentially be Arsenal’s best way into guaranteeing the securement of Champions League football next season.

On the eve of the game, he told the Independent “The Bate players will want to play well against Arsenal and show how good they are. People here [in Belarus] are very excited for the game, it’s all that everyone is talking about. There will be Arsenal fans coming from London but I think half the stadium will actually be Belarusian Arsenal fans, because so many people here love the club. Everybody wants to see this game.”

In many respects, this is the trickiest game of Arsenal’s Europa League campaign, with the travelling distance, opposition quality, experience of travelling squad and length of time between fixtures all coming into play.

If Arsenal’s youthful side is to continue what has been a good month in terms of results (2 league wins against Bournemouth and West Brom; a credible draw away at Chelsea; a winning start to both Europa League and League Cup campaigns) they will need to shield off an excited BATE team. If maximum points are attained in this fixture, it is difficult to see the Gunners not topping their group, even at this early stage.

With a Premier League tie against Brighton kicking-off back in North London approximately 40 hours after the final whistle blows in Borisov, it’s undoubtedly busy times for Arsene Wenger’s men, but another win here would be a good statement of intent for Arsenal’s campaign in Europe’s second competition and it will make for a prime opportunity for some young players to make a name for themselves in an Arsenal shirt and put them in for further contention going forward.

Arsenal play BATE Borisov in the Borisov Arena on Thursday the 28th of September with kick-off at the earlier than usual time of 18:00 GMT.