Weblog: The football punter

Arsenal to finish Europa group with a flourish

Europa League Group H
BT Sport 2, 8.05pm Thursday

Arsenal's results have tailed off in the second half of the Europa League group stage but they are guaranteed to finish top of Group H and can sign off with a victory over Bate Borisov at the Emirates.

The match is of greater importance to the visitors, who are battling it out with Cologne and Red Star Belgrade to finish second in the section.

Bate kick off matchday six at the bottom of the group but they could qualify with a victory in north London as long as Red Star and Cologne share the points in Serbia.

It seems a long shot but Bate will believe anything is possible after winning the Belarusian league title in dramatic fashion last month.

Going into their last match at mid-table Gorodeya, Bate needed a point to stave off the challenge from second-placed Dinamo Minsk.

They trailed 3-1 with just 12 minutes remaining but ended up rescuing a 3-3 draw with a dramatic injury-time equaliser from Mirko Ivanic.

Bate have had ten days to allow their 12th straight domestic title success to sink in and they should be in a reasonable state of fitness. Even at their best, though, they may struggle to match a second-string Arsenal.

The Gunners made light work of their matchday-two trip to Belarus, racing into a three-goal lead inside 25 minutes and running out 4-2 victors with a starting line-up featuring youngsters Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Arsenal's absentee list has shortened over the last two months with Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck recovering from injuries.

The increase in options means Arsene Wenger's starting 11 is likely to feature more experienced fringe players and fewer academy graduates.

Olivier Giroud is set to lead the line again and Welbeck should get more than the 45 minutes he was restricted to when the Gunners lost 1-0 at Cologne on matchday five.

Arsenal played with a lack of intensity in Cologne but are likely to have more motivation in a home game and should cause problems for Bate, who have shipped ten goals in five group games.

The Gunners should get the win but second-choice goalkeeper David Ospina may be denied a clean sheet.

Bate have scored in their last four Europa League fixtures and can get on the scoresheet, albeit in a losing cause.

Arsenal to win & both teams to score

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Match in Focus


Waregem v St Liege

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Zulte-Waregem have lost nine of their last 12 matches
Expert verdict
Standard Liege climbed from tenth to sixth after a 3-2 home win over Eupen on Saturday and their push towards the European qualification berths can continue with a victory at third-bottom Zulte-Waregem. Having lost three of 15 games, Standard are on the up and should have the edge over their hosts, who are trying to avoid a fifth successive home league defeat.