Qarabag vs Arsenal
UEFA Europa League
Date: Thursday, 4th October 2018
Kick-off at 17:55 UK/ 18:55 CET
Venue: Baku Olympic Stadium (Baku).
Arsenal will be looking to keep up their current winning streak as they travel to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday evening. The Gunners got their European campaign off to a perfect start when they comfortably dispatched Ukrainian side Vorskla Poltava 4-2 in their last match. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shone during the win and a repeat of that performance will surely be enough to stretch their current win streak to eight games. As for their opponents, Qarabag fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Portuguese side Sporting CP and will be hoping that they can take advantage of Arsenal’s lengthy travel to pick up at least a point.
Qarabag compete in an eight-team league in Azerbaijan and are currently unbeaten, having won five matches and drawn once. Their last match saw them win 2-0 away against FK Sabah on Saturday.
After losing their opening two matches against Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal have gone on to win their previous seven matches and most recently dispatched high-flying Watford 2-0 on Saturday.
Vagner vs Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
A journeyman Brazilian keeper who is currently playing for an Azerbaijani team sounds like the stuff of Football Manager fantasy, but Vagner is indeed Qarabag’s number one keeper. He has played for a whole host of sides during his 13-year career, including Portuguese side Estoril and Belgian outfit Royal Excel Mouscron, but he probably won’t have faced a striker quite as lethal as Aubameyang. The Gabonese international has been somewhat overshadowed by his front-line partner Alexandre Lacazette so far this season, but he still has four goals to his name – including a brace against Vorskla in his last Europa League match. The striker should get the nod to lead the line, so he will be hoping that he can add to his tally on Thursday.
Dani Quintana is the only reported injury concern for Qarabag as the midfielder is set to be out of action until December. Otherwise, their team should look very similar to the one that lost against Sporting previously.
Arsenal will be without Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has not travelled to Azerbaijan due to safety concerns. Petr Cech has joined a host of first-team players on the injury list including Sead Kolasinac and Laurent Koscielny, meaning Bernd Leno is certain to keep his place in goal.
Predicted Qarabag Lineup: Vagner; Medvedev, Huseynov, Rzezniczak, Guerrier; Qarayev, Diniyev, Madatov, Zoubir, Ozobic, Emeghara.
Predicted Arsenal Lineup: Leno; Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal; Elneny, Guendouzi, Welbeck, Iwobi, Ramsey; Aubameyang.
Things are looking rosy for Arsenal at the moment and all the signs are pointing towards an eighth straight victory in this one. Travelling all the way out to Azerbaijan will take its toll on the players and it certainly wont be plain sailing, but their quality should be decisive. Unai Emery will also be hoping that his side can wrap up qualification to the knockout stages as quickly as possible so that he can rest some of his first team regulars for upcoming European and Premier League matches.