Arsenal v Crvena Zvezda: Europa League Match Preview
Arsenal host Crvena zvezda in the Europa League at the Emirates Stadium tonight (8.05pm kick-off UK time).
The Gunners have won their opening three Europa League Group H matches.
Arsenal are one of four teams with a 100% win record following the opening three rounds of Europa League fixtures and will qualify for the last 32 of the competition with another victory tonight.
They beat tonight’s opponents 1-0 a fortnight ago in Belgrade, with Olivier Giroud netting the winner late on.
Arsenal have only ever won their opening four games in the group stages of European competition once – winning their first five in the 2005-06 Champions League en route to the final.
The Gunners are unbeaten in all six of their home Uefa Cup/Europa League games under Arsene Wenger, winning the last five after drawing with PAOK Salonika in 1997-98.
Arsenal have only failed to score in one of their last 26 games in European competition – at the Emirates against Barcelona in February 2016 (2-0).
Arsenal beat Swansea City 2-1 in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
The victory kept the Gunners in 5th position in the Premier League table.
Crvena zvezda go into tonight’s match having picked up four points from their opening three Group H matches. They are level on points with BATE Borisov, both are five points behind Arsenal in the Group H table.
The drew their opening fixture at home to BATE Borisov 1-1 and won their second fixture 1-0 against FC Koln in Germany.
Crvena won their opening away game in this competition at Cologne – excluding qualifiers. They have not won back-to-back away matches in European competition since November 1991 (a run of four), en route to winning the European Cup.
The Serbian side have been shown 10 cards in the group stages so far, including a red in the reverse fixture against Arsenal (nine yellows) – no side has been shown more in the competition so far (Hoffenheim, 10 yellows).
Crvena are four points clear at the top of the Serbian Superliga following a 1-0 win away to FC Zemun on Saturday.
Arsenal’s 1-0 win in Belgrade a fortnight ago was the first time the sides had met since the 1978/79 UEFA Cup third round.
On that occasion it was Crvena zvezda who advanced to the next round. Branko Stanković’s Crvena zvezda winning 1-0 in Belgrade – Cvijetin Blagojević the scorer – and then making it through to the next round with a 1-1 draw with Terry Neill’s men at Highbury, Dušan Savić’s late effort cancelling out an Alan Sunderland goal.
Olivier Giroud will hope to get on the scoresheet again as he did when the sides met in Belgrade a fortnight ago. Giroud’s 85th minute winner helped Arsenal maintain their 100% Europa League record.
Giroud has been directly involved in eight goals in his last eight starts in Europe for Arsenal (seven goals, one assist).
Ghana International striker Richmond Boakye showed glimpses in the first meeting between the sides of the talent that is attracting interest from Premier League clubs, including Chelsea. He hit the crossbar in the first-half of the match and was the main attacking threat for Crvena.
Boakye’s late strike on Saturday secured three points for the red-and-whites away to FK Zemun and maintained their four point lead at the top of the Serbian Superliga.
Arsene Wenger will revert to his Europa League team for this match.
Senior players such as Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott are likely to be in the starting eleven. They will be supplemented once again by youngsters including Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson.
Mathieu Debuchy may start his third match in a fortnight after previously only seeing 16 minutes of action for Arsenal since November 2015.
David Ospina and Calum Chambers are close to returning, but will not be involved tonight.
Shkodran Mustafi and Danny Welbeck will not return until after the International break in mid-November.
Sead Kolasinac is a doubt for the Premier League match with Manchester City on Sunday with a hip injury.
Mila Rogic is suspended tonight after being sent off when the teams met in Belgrade a fortnight ago.
On his roation policy for this competition, Wenger said.
“Both of the teams do well. Even in training, when we play them against each other, it’s very tight. I’ve gone into a rotation policy and I want to stick to that at the moment.”
“I must say I am pleased with the quality of our performances in every single competition,” said Wenger.
“It’s very difficult to make a change. They all want competition, they all deserve competition because of their quality.
“If you look at the number of minutes played by all of these players since the start of the season, many of them are in very competitive shape and that should be an advantage for the rest of the season.”
“My players need these kind of matches, the ideal would be to play these matches every week because you can grow and be a big player but on the other hand I’m glad this generation of Red Star Belgrade players have done a job to bring the club to the Emirates Stadium.
“Arsenal is one of the best football clubs in the world, we will play our best – this is football and anything is possible.
“I think last time after the first match in Belgrade, the Arsenal squad proved it is much bigger than ours and they have quality players and they all deserve to play in the first team.
“Arsene Wenger knows his players, I don’t want to interfere in is job – they are playing in four different competitions.
“They have shown they have a big roster of players, such high-quality players and Arsene Wenger is looking to the future and he is balancing young players with experienced players.
‘These young players can get lots of experiences in the Europa League and I can understand that he will give chances to them. That is important for their future.
‘They showed in Belgrade they are such a strong team but I think we can still play our own game, compete with them.”
Luca Banti (ITA)
Lorenzo Manganelli (ITA)
Fabiano Preti (ITA)
Additional assistant referees
Paolo Valeri (ITA)
Daniele Doveri (ITA)
Andrea Crispo (ITA)
Arsenal to win 3-1.