As they currently have a four-point lead at the top of Group H, Arsenal’s job is done. Arsene Wenger’s men have already confirmed themselves as group winners, and so this final match is ultimately meaningless as far as they’re concerned. In contrast, the visitors still have everything left to fight for. BATE come into this match bottom of the pile, but, as there is just a point between them and second place, they’re still in the hunt. The fact that Arsenal have nothing to play for should suit the visitors, who will inevitably come to London and give their all.
Arsenal have nothing to play for here, so they can almost definitely be expected to heavily rotate. Having said that, Wenger has opted to rest most of his Premier League regulars all the way through this campaign and so the line-up from the hosts may not be too different to what it was in Koln last time out. Even if they do weaken further, against a BATE side who simply must attack, the hosts could thrive on the break, though, as is often the case, they’re unlikely to keep things tight at the back. At the prices, ‘Both Teams to Score’ stands out massively.
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When these two teams met in the reverse fixture, an open game unfolded right from the word go. Naturally an early goal on that occasion undoubtedly helped, but much of the same is expected at the Emirates on Thursday. From a defensive point of view, Arsenal have failed to impress in this competition, neither at home, nor away. They may well have kept a clean sheet against Red Star Belgrade in their most recent home fixture, but that was only down to poor end-product from the visitors. Wenger’s men have conceded in three of their other four. Against such an inconsistent, and ultimately weak, back-line, the visitors will fancy themselves to notch at least once.
Like Arsenal, BATE have also been shaky at the back during this campaign. In conceding four at home against Thursday’s opponents, Aleksandr Yermakovich’s men showed that they can be easily breached. Given the fact that they need to get forward and score in this match, it’s easy to envisage BATE getting caught out on the break. For all they should get competitive in the Arsenal half, the visitors aren’t expected to do so whilst keeping a clean sheet.
One player who could profit from the space BATE are likely to afford is Olivier Giroud. The striker, who continues to find himself short of Premier League playing time, has delivered a couple of pleasing performances in the Europa League this season. The Frenchman looks a good bet to add another goal to the two he’s already bagged in this group.
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