Europa League: Arsenal vs CSKA Moscow – Lineups, Preview and Prediction

Arsenal host European quarterfinals for the first time in eight years as they welcome Russia’s last European representative, CSKA Moscow.

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20:05 BST, Thursday 5th April, Emirates Stadium (London, England), BT Sport

The Gunners will be looking to reclaim some dignity for the season and European glory – something they’ve never tasted before – to avoid arguably their worst season in Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign.

CSKA will provide a tough test for Arsenal, though. The 13-time Russian league champions will be looking to repeat their antics of 2004-05 when they won the then UEFA cup and roll back their glory days.

Arsenal won’t be keen on that, though. They’ve never been a force in European football but this could be the year that they dispel the naysayers. They are easily the second favourites in the tournament behind Atletico Madrid and a convincing win against AC Milan, 5-1 on aggregate, only reinforced that idea. 

CSKA proved that they meant business in the last round as well, defeating French side Lyon on away goals after an impressive 3-2 victory at the Groupama Stadium.

Last Time Out

Arsenal 3-0 Stoke City (Premier League)

Despite a flattering scoreline, the performance against relegation-threatened Stoke was far from what Arsenal would have wanted.

Stoke had a lot of early possession but failed to get a chance. Xherdan Shaqiri fired a curling effort wide of the of the mark in what turned out to be their only clear chance of the half.

Meanwhile, Arsenal huffed and puffed throughout the first half but couldn’t blow the Stoke defence down who maintained their resilient stance until the 73rd minute.

The Gunners were awarded a penalty after it was judged that Mesut Ozil was impeded and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way.

It took another 15 minutes for Arsenal to secure the game, though. Aubameyang doubling their lead and putting the game to bed with a well-taken volley from just inside the box.

Arsenal rounded the game off in perfect style, adding a third to what was now a miserable North-London afternoon for Stoke.

Alexandre Lacazette tumbled to the floor after Badou Ndiaye clumsily made contact with the Frenchmen. Lacazette then took the resulting spot kick and rounded the game off 3-0.

FC Rostov 1-2 CSKA Moscow (Russian Premier League)

CSKA showed why they are pushing for a Champions League place next year with an impressive 2-1 win away to Rostov.

It was a slow first half with few chances created but CSKA showed some guts and dug deep to take the lead just minutes before the first half.

Georgi Schennikov scored his third of the season, eventually putting the ball in after a cross from Vasili Berezutski fell to him just six yards out.

Rostov responded in the second half, with Sverrir Ingi Ingason levelling the tie in the 60th minute. His strike bumbled past Igor Akinfeev after a long ball in wasn’t defended clearly.

CSKA were able to come back later in the half though to ensure that they keep the pressure on Spartak and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Bibras Natkho’s cross-come-shot evaded the defenders and found its way to Pontus Wernbloom at the far post, who had the easiest chance of the game and put the ball into the back of the net from close range.

The win means CSKA stay in third place and currently sit in the Champions League qualification positions.

Arsenal Lineup

The gunners could welcome back Lacazette to the starting eleven after he returned to fitness following knee surgery. 

Danny Welbeck will unlikely feature after hurting his back against Stoke, with David Ospina likely to keep his place in goal.

CSKA Moscow Lineup

Moscow will be without Kirill Nababkin as he’s suspended after accumulating too many yellow cards but, aside from his absence, they have no new injury concerns.

Key Battle: Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) vs Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow)

Both teams will be looking for goals in this game, especially Arsenal as they know how hard a tie they face in Russia next week. 

The same applies for CSKA but an away goal could massively swing the tie for them – after all, it did in the last Europa League tie.

That burden of responsibility will fall onto the heads of the respective forwards for Arsenal and CSKA, Alexandre Lacazette and Ahmed Musa. 

Lacazette had ten goals in 25 appearances in the competition for Lyon and will desperately looking for something to kick-start his Arsenal career. 

He seems to really be struggling to adapt to life in England and has only scored ten times in 30 appearances. With Aubameyang out of the tie cup-tied, the burden of responsibility falls firmly on his head.

However, Musa only has three goals in 14 appearances this season, spanning over five different competitions. If either side wants to take something out of this tie back to the with Russia with them then they will be needing their strikers to step up.

Talking Points

Will the lack of Cech cost Arsenal?

Petr Cech is still stuck on the sidelines with a groin injury so will miss out the Europe League tie. Whilst he hasn’t been the in the best form of his career for Arsenal this year, he’s still a huge personality on the pitch and in the dressing room.

He’s the only one in the Arsenal team that has been to a European final and has a lot of experience playing in big European games. His absence in goal could be a big factor and may cost Arsenal at the back.

Sure, Ospina has been playing in most of the cup games for Arsenal but he has conceded 15 times in his 16 appearances. At this point of the competition, every goal conceded is vital so the sooner Arsenal’s number one is back in the fray, the better.

Mkhitaryan has a point to prove

Henrikh Mkhitaryan had been touted as a massive talent and when he eventually came to England to sign for Manchester United, people thought that he would set the league and Europe alight.

Well, that didn’t really happen. He has however looked like that promised player since securing a move to Arsenal in January 2018.

He has a point to prove to his critics – and, unfortunately, he has a few of them at the moment. His Arsenal career, whilst proving to be far more fruitful on a personal level, still hasn’t really taken off.

A huge performance in one of Arsenal’s biggest games in years could take him to that next level is needed and this could be the best opportunity to do so.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 CSKA Moscow

Arsenal should have far too much for CSKA at the Emirates tonight. With their attacking threat of Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Lacazette, they should be able to create a plethora of chances.

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