Europa League: Arsenal stars Mesut Ozil, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Granit Xhaka train as flight to Belarus looms
- Credit: DPA Germany
Gunners reporter Layth Yousif has been down at the Arsenal training ground monitoring the squad ahead of Unai Emery’s side’s trip to eastern Europe to take on BATE Borisov.
Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Granit Xhaka have trained with the Arsenal squad at London Colney ahead of Emery’s team flying to Belarus on Wednesday lunchtime.
The mercurial German went through his paces at the club’s HQ in a light session.
The former Real Madrid midfielder missed hard-fought 2-1 victory at Huddersfield on Saturday with a heavy cold – the seventh time he has been absent for an Arsenal match through illness.
Aubameyang also missed the trip through a heavy cold but was back in training while Xhaka also took part after missing the win at the John Smith’s Stadium with the medical staff assessing him before the flight.
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With the Gunners in a fight with a resurgent Manchester United for fourth spot and a coveted place in the promised land of the Champions League, Europe’s second tier tournament offers the North Londoners a safety net should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s qualify.
In racing parlance Unai Emery is a course and distance winner in the Europa League having lifted the trophy an unprecedented three years in a row as Sevilla boss.
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Previewing the tie Emery said: “Every match is a big challenge for us. Every match.
“Now we are going to play in the Europa League and after that we will play in two weeks against Southampton. My focus is the Europa League, then it is Southampton.
“Each training and each match is a big challenge. In football, you can win, you can lose, you can draw.
“The most important thing is in the head. You are thinking, to create, little by little, one team feeling and spirit. This is one process. It is not finished.
“It is not starting now. It is one process. We can improve a lot.”
Starlets Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock are expected to feature at some stage with Alex Iwobi set to be handed an influential role after Mesut Ozil missed the hard-fought 2-1 victory over Huddersfield Town in Yorkshire on Saturday with ‘illness’.
January transfer window loan signing from Barcelona, Denis Suarez, has been included in the Gunners squad for the knockout stages.
Granit Xhaka, who missed the win against the Terriers with a groin injury is being assessed by the club’s medical team while Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck are out with long-term injury and are unlikely to feature again for Arsenal this season.
As Group E winners Arsenal avoided the four best-placed teams who dropped down from the Champions League to draw BATE, who finished runners-up to Chelsea in Group L after losing twice to the Blues.
The Emirates outfit were drawn against Alyaksey Baha’s side last term winning 4-2 and 6-0 in N5. The Gunners have kept a clean sheet in each of their last five Europa League games, the longest current run in the competition.
They are also one of only seven teams to Arsenal were one of seven teams to remain unbeaten in this season’s Europa League group stages – with Chelsea, Dinamo Zagreb, Eintracht Frankfurt, Real Betis, RedBull Salzburg and Villarreal the others.
Borisov have lost all three of their previous home games against English clubs in European competition, failing to progress past this round after being eliminated in 2010-11 by PSG and Turkish giants Fenerbache in 2012-13.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29