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Preview: Slavia Prague vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Slavia Prague and Arsenal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Arsenal will endeavour to keep their prospects of European glory alive when they travel to Slavia Prague for the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie on Thursday evening.

The Gunners were minutes away from claiming a 1-0 first-leg win after Nicolas Pepe's late opener, but Tomas Holes scrambled home right at the death to rescue a 1-1 draw and a priceless away goal for Slavia.


Match preview

Slavia Prague's Tomas Holes celebrates scoring against Arsenal in the Europa League on April 8, 2021© Reuters

In a sight that Arsenal supporters have been forced to endure time and time again this season, Mikel Arteta's side squandered countless opportunities to put the tie to bed in the first leg, and it was not until the 86th minute that substitutes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe combined to give Arsenal the lead at the Emirates.

Arteta's side were seconds away from making nearly 90 minutes of frustration worthwhile, but after giving away a corner in the fourth minute of added time, Slavia defender Holes managed to scramble home at the back post to ensure that the spoils were shared in the first leg, as Arsenal's agonising wait for a clean sheet continued.

Scenes of unbridled delirium followed for Jindrich Trpisovsky's men in the English capital, and Slavia were able to carry that momentum forward into the Prague derby with Sparta Prague, as strikes from Holes and Stanislav Tecl propelled the unbeaten leaders to a 2-0 triumph on Sunday.

Trpisovsky's men have now strung together a remarkable 23-game unbeaten run across all competitions and are yet to lose at home in the entire campaign - winning 11 and drawing two of their last 13 at their headquarters - although the two sides who managed to prevent Slavia from winning on their own soil were Leicester City and Rangers in the previous rounds of the Europa League.

However, a dominant Slavia eventually sent both British giants packing as they bid to reach the semi-finals of a European competition for the first time since the 1995-96 campaign, and this week's hosts have only failed to score twice at home all season, so Arteta and his depleted attack must show the clinical edge that was missing in the first leg if they are to advance.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta pictured on March 6, 2021© Reuters

Mikel Arteta has reminded his Arsenal players that they have a "responsibility" to qualify for Europe, but the Gunners' hopes of a 25th consecutive season on the continental stage are hanging by a thread after they were pegged back in heartbreaking fashion in the first leg.

However, the Gunners only had themselves to blame after Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette all spurned magnificent opportunities to make the net ripple, but a comfortable 3-0 Premier League win at basement side Sheffield United ensured that the panic button would not be pressed just yet.

Lacazette rediscovered his goalscoring touch to net a brace at Bramall Lane - which took him up to 50 top-flight goals in English football - and teenage starlet Gabriel Martinelli grasped his opportunity with both hands in Aubameyang's absence as Arsenal ended their Sheffield hoodoo in dominant fashion.

The Gunners ended a four-game winless run with that triumph and kept a clean sheet for the first time in 14 matches during a morale-boosting win, although the chances of Arsenal qualifying for Europe through their league position are still extremely slim, so Arteta's side must do what no team has been able to do this season in order to seal progress in Europe - beat Slavia Prague on their own territory.

Arsenal head to Prague unbeaten in their last six away from home across all competitions - notching up three goals in four of their last five on the road - but as Arteta's injury woes in the final third worsen, the Gunners must find creativity and inspiration from somewhere if their dreams of European silverware are to remain achievable.

Slavia Prague Europa League form:
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D

Slavia Prague form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W

Arsenal Europa League form:
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D

Arsenal form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • W



Team News

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates with the match ball after scoring a hat-trick on February 14, 2021© Reuters

Slavia defender Ondrej Kudela served a provisional one-match suspension in the first leg amid investigations of racist abuse, and the 34-year-old has now been handed a 10-game ban by UEFA after being found guilty of said offence towards Glen Kamara.

The Czech giants only had one fit centre-back for the first leg and will remain without David Hovorka (knee) and Simon Deli (COVID-19) for this battle, so goalscorer Holes may be forced to deputise in the heart of defence again.

There are also fresh concerns over Peter Olayinka and top scorer Abdallah Sima, who both missed the Prague derby due to "health problems", but Trpisovsky will hope to welcome the two attackers back for the second leg.

In a major attacking boost, Arteta will be able to welcome Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka back to the squad - but both may not be risked from the start just yet - while Martin Odegaard will have to pass a late fitness test.

Arteta is optimistic that Aubameyang will recover from illness in time to feature, and Martinelli has shrugged off his own injury worries, but Kieran Tierney and David Luiz remain in the treatment room.

Should Saka, Smith Rowe and Odegaard all be left out of the first XI, Dani Ceballos could feature in a more advanced midfield role after impressing against Sheffield United, allowing Granit Xhaka to return to the middle of the park as Cedric Soares deputises on the left.

Slavia Prague possible starting lineup:
Kolar; Bah, Holes, Zima, Boril; Hromada, Provod, Stanciu; Dorley, Sima, Olayinka

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Cedric; Xhaka, Partey; Pepe, Ceballos, Martinelli; Lacazette


SM words green background

We say: Slavia Prague 1-2 Arsenal

The Gunners will hope to take inspiration from their memorable fightback against Benfica as they prepare to step out onto the turf at Slavia's fortress, and defeat here would most likely signal the end of Arsenal's prolonged stint in Europe. Arteta has far more injury concerns to deal with than he would have liked, but a strong showing at Bramall Lane was the perfect tonic for Arsenal before the biggest game of their season so far, and we think they have what it takes to beat Slavia on their own turf and advance to the semi-finals.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data


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How you voted: Slavia Prague vs Arsenal

Slavia Prague
28.3%
Draw
11.4%
Arsenal
60.4%
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Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring against Newcastle on January 18, 2021
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2Manchester UnitedMan Utd362010670422870
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5Liverpool36189963422163
6Tottenham HotspurSpurs361781163412259
7West Ham UnitedWest Ham361781156461059
8Everton36168124643356
9Arsenal361671350381255
10Leeds UnitedLeeds36165155753453
11Aston Villa36147155144749
12Wolverhampton WanderersWolves36129153549-1445
13Crystal Palace36128164061-2144
14Southampton36127174763-1643
15Burnley36109173351-1839
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle36109174362-1939
17Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton36814143742-538
RFulham36512192650-2427
RWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom36511203370-3726
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3662281962-4320

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