Europa League: BATE Borisov v Arsenal PREVIEW
- Credit: DPA Germany
Arsenal take on BATE Borisov in deepest Belarus on Thursday evening in the first leg of the Europa League round of 32.
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.
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.
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“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.
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“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