MX23RW : Tuesday, June 22 08:05:28| >> :120:32717:32717:
Jul 16, 2019 at 2am UK at Dick's Sporting Goods Park
ColoradoColorado Rapids
FT(HT: 0-2)
Saka (13'), Olayinka (29'), Martinelli (61')

Preview: Colorado Rapids vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole looks ahead to Arsenal's opening pre-season friendly against Colorado Rapids, including predictions, teams news and a full match preview.

Arsenal will begin their pre-season tour of the United States in the early hours of Tuesday morning when they face the Stan Kroenke-owned Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

The Gunners are gearing up for the second season under Unai Emery, with Tuesday's match kicking off a four-stop tour in the States.

Colorado Rapids

Colorado Rapids head coach Conor Casey pictured in June 2019© Reuters

Whereas Arsenal are just beginning their preparations for a new campaign, Tuesday's match comes in the middle of Colorado Rapids' MLS season.

It is a season which has not gone particularly well for Conor Casey's side so far, though, with the Rapids sitting 11th in the Western Conference and only goal difference keeping them off the bottom.

Not that their struggles have been much of a surprise; Colorado reached the MLS Playoff semi-finals in 2016, but since then they have finished 11th in both 2017 and 2018.

There have been signs of improvement in recent weeks, though, with five wins and just one defeat from their last nine MLS outings having lost nine and failed to win any of their opening 11 games of the season.

Such improved form will add to the optimism that Colorado can claim a famous scalp against a troubled Arsenal team in this match, with fitness levels also likely to be on the hosts' side.

The Rapids were in action as recently as Sunday, when they twice came from behind to draw with Portland Timbers, and they will return to competitive duties at the weekend when they host playoff-chasing New York City.

Casey's side have also won four of their last five MLS home games - following four defeats in a row - and will hope that Tuesday's match acts as a catalyst for a renewed charge up the table.

Challenging for a playoff spot remains an outside possibility with nine points separating them from the top seven and 14 matches of their season still to play, but it would take some turnaround to book their place in the post-season after beginning their campaign with only two points from a possible 33.

Recent form: WLDWLD


Unai Emery leads Arsenal training on May 1, 2019© Reuters

Stan Kroenke may have envisioned this match as a perfect opportunity to utilise his ownership of both clubs, but instead it looks set to become a platform for Arsenal supporters to protest against the American billionaire.

Influential fan groups have already combined to pen an open letter complaining to the club's owner about the direction they are heading, having gone from being recent Champions League finalists when he first invested in 2007 to regular Champions League absentees now.

The 2019-20 campaign will be the third consecutive season that the Gunners have missed out on a place at Europe's top table, being consigned to Europa League football once again next term.

It is a competition they reached the final of last year, but their 4-1 defeat at the hands of London rivals Chelsea in Azerbaijan confirmed another year out of the Champions League having also finished fifth in the Premier League.

Tuesday's match will be Arsenal's second outing since that Europa League final defeat in Baku, and while there are plenty of issues which still need solving on the field, it is off-field matters that have given Emery the biggest headaches so far this summer.

As if the reported £45m transfer kitty had not already caused enough problems in an age where their top target Wilfried Zaha is valued at £80m, Arsenal's own captain Laurent Koscielny has thrown the club's plans for the new season into further disarray.

The Frenchman has refused to travel with the squad on this tour of the United States in a bid to force a move away from the club despite still having a year remaining on his contract.

The recruitment of a new centre-back is now an even bigger priority, which coupled with the desire to bring in a top-class winger and a full-back leaves the £45m budget embarrassingly short.

Eighteen-year-old Gabriel Martinelli is the only new arrival at the Emirates Stadium so far this summer, whereas key first-team figures such as Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck have left.

Right now the 2019-20 Arsenal roster looks weaker than the 2018-19 one which finished 28 points adrift of the champions, then, and Emery could find himself needing to rely on youngsters coming through to bolster those ranks.

Pre-season friendlies such as this one are therefore even more valuable for the Spaniard to cast an eye over the full depth of his squad, although anything other than victory over the Rapids would not bode well for an upcoming ICC triple-header against Bayern Munich, Fiorentina and Real Madrid.

Recent form:

Team News

Unai Emery greets Laurent Koscielny on the sidelines during Arsenal's Europa League tie with Qarabag FK on December 13, 2018© Reuters

Koscielny's boycott makes him the most notable absentee of this Arsenal tour and leaves Emery needing to experiment with new defensive possibilities.

Calum Chambers is once again an option having been brought to the USA despite spending last season on loan at Fulham, where he was named the club's player of the year as they were relegated to the Championship.

Big names such as Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are all in the travelling party too and could be handed minutes, although it is unlikely that they will all start the first match of pre-season together.

Martinelli could make his debut for the club, but long-term injury absentees Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding are not yet ready to return to action despite being brought on the tour.

The hosts, meanwhile, must decide whether to rest players for the more important matter of an MLS fixture at the weekend, although the number of substitutes permitted will allow Casey to give most of his squad a run-out.

The Colorado roster contains a number of familiar faces, including former Manchester United and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard in goal.

Danny Wilson, Tommy Smith, Jack Price and top-scorer Kei Kamara have all enjoyed spells in English football before too.

Colorado Rapids possible starting lineup:
Howard; Rosenberry, Abubakar, Smith, Vines; Mezquida, Wilson; Shinyashiki, Rubio, Lewis; Kamara

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Jenkinson, Medley, Sokratis, Monreal; Chambers, Xhaka; Willock, Ozil, Smith Rowe; Nketiah

Head To Head

This will be the first ever meeting between these two sides.

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We say: Colorado Rapids 1-2 Arsenal

Pre-season matches are always difficult to predict and Arsenal are unlikely to have things all their own way considering the hosts will be fitter and are in improving form. However, Arsenal have some top-class players to call upon if needed and we're backing them to have the quality to get their campaign off to a winning start.

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