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Preview: BATE Borisov vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Thursday's Europa League last-32 tie between BATE Borisov and Arsenal.

Arsenal head into the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie with BATE Borisov looking to register a third victory over Thursday's opponents in the space of 18 months.

BATE play host to the Premier League side having not played a competitive game since the end of the group stages due to their new domestic campaign not starting until March.

BATE Borisov

BATE Borisov celebrate scoring a goal against Chelsea in Europa League fixture on October 25, 2018© Reuters

BATE were placed in a group which included Chelsea and PAOK before the start of the main stages of this competition, and it meant that the Belarusian champions were only regarded as outsiders to progress through to the last 32.

That remained the case as they lost three out of their opening four matches, but boss Alyaksey Baha was able guide his side to victories over Vidi and PAOK to claim the runners-up spot.

That was always going to be the best-case scenario due to Chelsea's presence, but BATE also showed enough against the Blues that they are capable of causing a surprise against their London rivals.

Chelsea - having been unbeaten since August - only prevailed 1-0 on their visit to the Borisov Arena, and it suggested that Baha's team had progressed from their two heavy defeats to Arsenal during the previous campaign.

One hindrance for BATE ahead of this fixture is their lack of competitive action, and the club are currently in the middle of their pre-season programme ahead of the start of the new domestic season in March.

Baha will not be too concerned that two of their three friendlies have ended in defeat, but it suggests that Arsenal may have some joy if they play at a high tempo on Thursday evening.

BATE are also now without Nikolai Signevich - who scored three times in the group stages - with the forward having made the switch to Hungarian side Ferencvaros in January.

Bojan Dubajic has arrived at the club as his replacement and several other new players have also come through the door, and it leaves Baha potentially using this double-header as an opportunity to bed in his new signings ahead of their first league outing.

Recent form: WLLLWW
Recent form (all competitions): DLWWDW


Unai Emery gestures with two fingers during the Europa League group game between Arsenal and Vorskla Poltava on September 20, 2018© Reuters

Arsenal reached the first knockout stage by registering five wins and a draw from six matches as well as achieving five consecutive clean sheets, but the Gunners have struggled for any consistency since the middle of December.

Six victories and six defeats have come from their last 13 outings, and Manchester United's resurgence currently leaves Unai Emery's team as outsiders to finish in fourth place in the Premier League standings.

Frequent injuries to key players in defence has also not helped Arsenal's cause, and Emery has been left to try to achieve one of the club's targets for the season against the odds.

As many as 28 different players were used during the group stages, but Emery is likely to call upon his most-proven players for Thursday's first leg with the club having no fixture at the weekend.

Whether Mesut Ozil still falls into that category is open to debate, as the German playmaker has been left on the fringes of the squad as he seemingly does not fit into Emery's system.

That said, Arsenal also need to provide Ozil with a platform to showcase his talents if they are to successfully part ways with the player in the summer, and this is the perfect competition to provide the 30-year-old with plenty of minutes.

Emery will still want to give opportunities to his younger crop of players, but Ozil's wage packet and an apparent lack of desire to leave the club means that there is more onus on Arsenal to achieve Champions League football for next season.

That is achievable - despite the presence of a number of high-quality teams in this competition - but Emery will want to move through to the last 16 with minimal fuss due to the recent fitness issues with his squad.

Recent form: WWWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWLW

Team News

Mesut Ozil in action for Arsenal on January 29, 2019© Reuters

Ozil has recently been sidelined through illness - as has Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - but the pair could both feature in the starting lineup in Belarus.

Aaron Ramsey has been suffering with a knee problem and may not be risked, and Granit Xhaka may be rested as he deals with an issue with his groin.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos is also a likely absentee, but Denis Suarez may be handed a first start in an Arsenal shirt after his loan move from Barcelona.

Dubajic could be handed a competitive debut for BATE, while fellow new arrivals Nemanja Milic and Dmitri Bessmertny may also be involved in the 18-man squad.

Alexander Hleb is likely to be named among the replacements for the game against his former club.

BATE Borisov possible starting lineup:
Scherbitski; Rios, Volkov, Filipenko, Filipovic; Baga, Dragun, Ivanic; Skavysh, Dubajic, Stasevich

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Guendouzi, Kolasinac; Suarez, Ozil, Aubameyang

Head To Head

The two teams were drawn against each other for last season's group stages, and Arsenal prevailed in each encounter and scored a total of 10 goals.

Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud both got on the scoresheet in a 4-2 win in Belarus, before a 6-0 triumph was registered in North London in December.

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We say: BATE Borisov 1-4 Arsenal

Emery will select a strong team for the trip to Belarus and we expect an even stronger performance. The Gunners will want this tie wrapped up before the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium, and they have the firepower to put the game out of BATE's reach.

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Who will win Thursday's Europa League clash between BATE Borisov and Arsenal?

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Mesut Ozil wipes his nose on his shirt during the Premier League game between Arsenal and Manchester City on August 12, 2018
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