Arsene Wenger will travel with his Arsenal squad for a testing trip to Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night. The Gunners suffered a damaging 2-1 league defeat to Watford last weekend, and the Frenchman will want a strong reaction from whichever team he puts out against the Serbian champions.
Colombia international David Ospina has been the natural replacement for Petr Cech for the Cup and Europa League games, and he is certain to start between the sticks in Belgrade. Laurent Koscielny sustained a minor muscle problem late in the Watford defeat, and he is likely to be replaced by Rob Holding, who will take his position alongside Nacho Monreal and Per Mertesacker in central defence. Ainsley Maitland-Niles could start his third straight European outing in the left wing-back spot whilst Mathieu Debuchy is almost certain to make his long comeback at right wing-back. The Frenchman has not featured for the Gunners since his 15-minute appearance against Bournemouth last November, where he sustained a hamstring pull.
The central midfield could see familiar faces in Mohamed Elneny and Jack Wilshere whilst the recently returned Francis Coquelin may have to settle for a bench role. Further forward, Theo Walcott is a certain candidate to feature after a stunning brace in the first-half versus BATE Borisov. Young graduate Joe Willock made his maiden European start in the same outing, and he could get another chance to impress just behind the main striker. Olivier Giroud notched a century of Arsenal goals via a penalty effort against BATE, and he will be determined to add to his tally of two strikes for the campaign.
Arsenal secured a 4-2 triumph over BATE during their previous away outing, but the game was not one-sided in any regard as the Belarusians put Ospina under constant pressure in the second half. Red Star Belgrade have a top-class striker in Richmond Boakye in their ranks, and the Gunners backline will have to maintain their focus in order to achieve a positive result.
Image – Getty