Arsenal v FK Qarabag preview: Laurent Koscielny set to start
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Arsenal host FK Qarabag at the Emirates in the Europa League on Thursday evening. Read on for Layth Yousif’s match preview.
Gunners captain Koscielny is set to start for the first time since suffering a serious achilles injury at Atletico Madrid since May.
The experienced centre-half who played for Freddie Ljungberg’s U21 side against Portsmouth at Fratton Park in the Checkatrade Trophy last week is now fully recovered from the ruptured achilles picked up at the Metropolitano.
The 33-year-old French international who picked up 51 international caps before annoucning his retirement earlier this year sparked fears of an injury set-back against Pompey when he hobbled off the pitch in the final few minutes before it was announced it was only a case of cramp.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery has yet to reveale whether Mesut Ozil would be fit to play following his back injury but Aaron Ramsey is set to return.
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Konstantinos Mavropanos, Danny Welbeck and Shkodran Mustafi are all out along with long-term absentee Rob Holding who is sidelined for nine months, having ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee at Old Trafford eight days ago during the 2-2 draw against Manchester United.
When asked whether Koscielny might also feature in the Premier League clash on the south coast against Southampton on Sunday, Emery said: “We are going to look also if he can play 90 minutes or less minutes in this game.
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“We can use another player in this position, someone like Nacho Monreal, who is also with us and in his career he played in this position [before].
“We are going to decide, but the first is to think about the match tomorrow because we need to receive information on how he can feel.”
Emery indicated he was prepared to select an inexperienced starting XI in the dead rubber with the club sealing top spot Group E after the 3-0 victory in Ukraine last time out.
The Gunners have used 26 different players in this tournament this term in their opening five games in the Europa League – more than any other team.
Arsenal triumphed in the reverse fixture against Qarabag 3-0 in early October, netting with three of their four shots on goal.
Qarabag have lost all five of their previous meetings with English sides in European competitions, by an aggregate score of 1-17.
“In the next 10 days we play four matches - each of them very important,” the former Sevilla boss added.
“We achieved our Europa League objective, so we are going to use some different players with also players coming from the under-23 team.”
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29