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Arsenal predicted XI v Slavia: £110k-a-week ace returns as ‘absolute machine’ drops out

Arsenal FC v SL Benfica  - UEFA Europa League Round Of 32 Leg Two
(Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

Arsenal

Arsenal predicted XI v Slavia: £110k-a-week ace returns as ‘absolute machine’ drops out

Arsenal are in Europa League quarter-final first-leg action on Thursday night, a crucial game for the Gunners in their pursuit of Champions League football.

Mikel Arteta’s charges have picked up just one point from their last two Premier League games, conceding six goals, and were hammered 3-0 by Liverpool at the weekend.

Arsenal sit 10th in the table, a huge 10 points adrift of the top four, so the Europa League is now looking like the best chance for the Gunners to quality for Europe’s top-tier tournament.

The north Londoners host Slavia Prague at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg before travelling to the Czech Republic next Thursday.

So, who could Arteta look to name in his starting XI?

Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League

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In front of Bernd Leno, there’s already a significant personnel problem in the back line, in that David Luiz and Kieran Tierney have both been sidelined.

Gabriel Magalhaes struggled against Liverpool, so Arteta could replace him with Pablo Mari alongside Rob Holding, a pairing that has previously worked well.

The £27million man, a player who Lille president Gerard Lopez once called an “absolute machine”, hasn’t been in great form lately, so it remains to be seen whether he could sit this one out.

 

Cedric Soares, meanwhile, covered well for Tierney at left-back in the past, so he could return on that side.

Hector Bellerin remained on the bench at Anfield but the £110,000-a-week right-back could replace the more versatile Calum Chambers, who could be called upon from the bench.

Martin Odegaard is also a doubt for Thursday due to discomfort to his right ankle since being on international duty.

On a brighter note, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka are all available for selection.

This means the midfield selection is fairly straightforward – Xhaka and Thomas Partey – while the right side of attack is also covered, Saka having made that position his own.

If Odegaard is out, then ESR is likely to start at No. 10, which would probably mean Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the left and Alexandre Lacazette leading the line.

If the Norwegian is fit, he’s likely to get the nod at No. 10, while ESR goes on the left and Aubameyang leads the line, in our view.

West Ham United v Arsenal - Premier League

(Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal predicted XI v Slavia (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Mari, Cedric; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang; Lacazette

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