Arsenal aiming to clinch top spot in Group H standings in the Cathedral City

FC Köln host Arsenal in Group H matchday five of the Europa League this evening at the Müngersdorfer Stadion (6.00pm kick-off UK time).

The Gunners beat Köln 3-1 on matchday one at the Emirates Stadium on the 14th September, with second half goals from Sead Kolasinac, Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin.  Jhon Córdoba had given the German’s a first half lead.

The Geissböcke (Billy Goats) go into tonight’s match bottom of the Group H standings.

They have won one and lost three of their opening four fixtures.

But the Köln fans showed in London just how much a return to European competition means to them after 50 years

A win tonight though will guarantee that Köln something to play for on matchday six.

A draw will not be enough to keep Köln’s hopes afloat if Crvena zvezda win against BATE Borisov in Belarus tonight.

Although they lost their first three Group H fixtures, Köln were the competition’s highest scorers last time out with their 5-2 home win against BATE Borisov.

FC Köln warmed up to facing Arsenal by losing their Bundesliga away match against FSV Mainz 05 1-0. Daniel Brosinski converted a highly disputed penalty to decide the match.

The result leaves Köln rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga table, with just two points from their opening twelve matches.

The German side have won four of their eight home meetings with English opposition (drawing one and losing three), beating Spurs 8-0 in their last such meeting in an Intertoto Cup match in July 1995.

FC Köln have lost just two of their last 20 home games in the UEFA Cup or Europa League, though these defeats have come in their last five games.

Arsenal have already qualified for the last 32 of the completion, with three wins and a draw from their opening four fixtures.

A point tonight would make sure of first place in the Group H standings for the Gunners.

Arsenal come into tonight’s match boosted by a 2-0 win in the north London derby on Saturday.

A result that keeps the Gunners in 6th position in the Premier League table.

Arsenal have lost their last three away games against German opposition, including their last two by a 5-1 scoreline (both against Bayern Munich).

The Gunners have won just four of their 17 away games against German opponents in all European competition (drawing four and losing nine), with all of those victories coming against different sides (Werder Bremen, Hamburg, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund).

Victory would mean that Arsenal become the first English team to win away at five different German opponents in all European competition.

The Gunners have scored in each of their last 13 away games in European competition, last failing to find the net in September 2014 in a 0-2 defeat by Borussia Dortmund.

Head-to-Head

FC Köln have lost two of their three previous meetings with Arsenal, though did win their only home meeting 1-0 in the Fairs Cup in March 1971.

Key Men

FC Köln

Colombian striker Jhon Córdoba showed his threat in the first meeting between the teams when he opened the scoring with a 40 yard lob over his compatriot David Ospina.

Arsenal

Jack Wilshere will once again want to impress as he strives to regain a starting place in the Gunners Premier League team. With the January transfer window looming Wilshere knows he needs to be playing league football regularly if he wants to press his case for inclusion in England’s squad ahead of next year’s World Cup Finals in Russia.

The Managers

Peter Stöger

Stöger has guided Köln back into Europe for the first time in 20 years. A four-time league champion – and 65-times capped international – as a player in his native Austria, he moved to Köln after steering Austria Wien to the 2012/13 title.

“It is certainly a large challenge (to qualify for the last 32), but we want to use the opportunity we have to remain in this competition. We are still in it.

“It is a special match for us. We still have an opportunity in this competition. We will need a good result but that is what we intend to do. We want to keep our chances alive with a good performance.

“We played a good first half, but Arsenal came out better in the second half. All in all it was a nice match with a tremendous atmosphere.

“For me, Arsene Wenger is someone that emanates sovereignty. I am speaking about his character and the way he presents himself. What also impresses me is the way in which he tries to play the game of football. It is a celebration of fine technical football. That is why it is special for me to play against him an Arsenal FC.

“Of course we are missing players, both on the pitch and in the locker room. But the situation remains that we are able to send Bundesliga players on the pitch. What is missing for us right now are the variations and the opportunity to make adjustments. The competition for places can also not be measured in training. My job is to find a formation that will fit these players best in order for them to produce at the highest level.”

Arsene Wenger

You will see a very experienced team tomorrow and see that every player has a big experience in the Premier League.

The north London derby win has helped lift the confidence but it’s behind us now. We’re focused on finishing top of the group tomorrow.

This is what Wenger had to say on the returning Danny Welbeck.

“I have a long experience and I have known players who have won the World Cup who in November had no chance to go.

“I remember especially Petit in 1998, he made it in March, April, May and he was one of the main players. Danny has the potential to go. If he is fit, he will go. I am convinced of that.

“It is a big year for him but I want it to be a big year for him for Arsenal. Because a consequence of that… the best way to go to the World Cup is not to think ‘I have to prepare for the World Cup’, it is to do well for your club and after you automatically are in the national team.

“You have a player next to me [in the press conference, Per Mertesacker] who has over 100 caps for Germany, but he will tell you the best way to do that is to focus every day.

“Today, what is most important is to have consistent presence in competition. If you are in and out, you cannot be at your best. It is as simple as that. Even if you do play every single game, you have to be capable to practise every day.”

Team News

FC Köln

Simon Zoller picked up an injury to his right thigh during the match against Mainz 05 on Saturday and is expected to make his return until 2018.

Arsenal

Arsene Wenger will revert to the squad that has been playing in the Europa League.

Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock  will all hope to get a chance to impress.

David Ospina is set to return in goal after missing the two matches against Crvena Zvezda.

Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck are in the squad after recovering from injury and are set to be in the starting line-up.

Calum Chambers is also in the squad after missing most of the season through injury.

Theo Walcott misses out through illness.

Match Officials

Referee
Vladislav Bezborodov (RUS)

Assistant referees
Valeri Danchenko (RUS)
Maksim Gavrilin (RUS)

Fourth official
Aleksei Lunev (RUS)

Additional assistant referees
Kirill Levnikov (RUS)
Igor Fedotov (RUS

Prediction

Arsenal to win 3-1.