Injury-Hit Arsenal Travel to Standard Liege with Group F Supremacy in Doubt

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Arsenal Standard Liege
LIEGE, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 11: Freddie Ljungberg the Arsenal Interim Head Coach during the Arsenal Press Conference at Stade Maurice Dufrasne on December 11, 2019 in Liege, Belgium. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal enter match day six of the Europa League atop group F and seek to stay there after their trip to Standard Liege. However, Freddie Ljungberg‘s side have a few injury issues to contend with ahead of their second most difficult match of the group stage.

Standard Liege v Arsenal Preview

Gunners Plagued by Injuries

Arsenal have seven players who are unavailable against Standard Liege with six due to injury. Dani Ceballos has been out for a few weeks now with a knee injury but should return to training next week.

Hector Bellerin has a tight right hamstring but has a chance to play against Manchester City on Sunday. Rob Holding isn’t quite as lucky as the club has confirmed his knee bruising will keep him out of training for the next two weeks.

Nicolas Pepe is also among the casualties for the Gunners. The Ivorian winger will miss out on Thursday due to his own bruised knee but has a chance to return against City. Kieran Tierney isn’t quite as lucky as his dislocated shoulder is still being assessed and could miss three months.

Granit Xhaka sustained a concussion against West Ham United on Monday. The club will follow concussion protocol with the Swiss international and will miss not only Arsenal’s clash with Standard Liege but also their league match against City.

Finally, Shkodran Mustafi has accumulated three yellow cards already in the Europa League and is, therefore, suspended for Thursday’s match. Liege have three injury issues of their own to deal with.

First, they will have to make a last-minute decision on the fitness of Orlando Sa. Second, they will certain be without Anthony Limbombe due to a knee injury. Thirdly, the Belgian side will also not have Noe Dussenne as he continues to rehabilitate from a knee ligament injury.

Freddie Ljungberg Press Conference

Ahead of the match against Standard Liege, Arsenal interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg spoke to the media. He said of the injury situation:

“Of course, it’s not good. We got one in the warm-up at West Ham and then another full back [got injured] in the game. But it’s just one of those freak things. One is to the head [Granit Xhaka] and one is a shoulder [Kieran Tierney] in a tackle. You can’t do much about it, but of course it puts a strain on the squad. But that’s how it is.”

When asked about his chances of securing the full-time head coach position:

“Again, that’s not a conversation I’ve had with the bosses. My job is to go from day-to-day, game-to-game and try to help this fantastic club. That’s what I try to do and all those decisions are up to the top dogs.”

And on whether or not his side will lack interest in Thursday’s group stage finale:

“Of course it’s a very important game for us. We know what’s at stake and we think they will probably come at us because they need to win the game. Of course, in the Premier League in December, we play a lot of games so regardless of who was here, it was not the game, sometimes we have to change. But we have a lot of respect and we definitely don’t take it lightly. We want to win the game and get a result and play in Europe for the rest of the season.”

Prediction

Standard Liege will have to beat Arsenal in order to qualify for the knockout phase of the competition. They sit two points behind Eintracht Frankfurt so a draw will do them no favours and Liege will also need help from Vitoria Guimaraes. Should the Portuguese side lose, the Belgians cannot qualify.

However, as Standard Liege sit three points behind Arsenal, they can progress with a big win. The Gunners hold a plus-seven goal differential while Liege own a minus-two. A five-goal victory is what will take them through.

That is highly unlikely although the Belgians did come to play in the reverse fixture in London. They will try to take the game to the visitors so the potential for an upset is there. However, what is much more likely is seeing Frankfurt leap-frog Arsenal in the group F table.

The Germans are heavy favourites against Vitoria and should Arsenal lose to Standard Liege, they would finish as group winner with one more victory. However, Liege’s presumed tactics would leave them at least somewhat vulnerable at the back.

That should provide the Gunners with enough chances to take at least a point from the game. Don’t expect any clean sheets, however, as Arsenal have a tendency to concede easily when put under pressure.

Predicted score: Standard Liege 2 Arsenal 3

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