Arsenal are aiming to bounce back from Europa League heartache by extending their lead at the top of the Premier League to eight points with a win over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
The Gunners were dumped out of European competion by Sporting on Thursday night, having been forced to go the distance in regards to extra-time and a penalty shoot-out. As a result, there are fears Mikel Arteta’s men could be showing some signs of fatigue when they welcome the Eagles to the Emirates.
For much of the season so far it has been Arsenal who have had a game in hand over title rivals Manchester City, but come full-time against Palace it will be the Gunners who have played a game more than Pep Guardiola’s side. Therefore, the hosts can’t afford any slip-ups.
How Arsenal will line-up has dominanted the pre-match discussion, with the Gunners suffering two big injury blows during the defeat by Sporting which has hindered them going into this tie.
While Aaron Ramsdale will almost certainly take up his usual position between the sticks, he is unlikely to have William Saliba in front of him. The France international was withdrawn from the game on Thursday night early on with what has been reported as a back injury and it looks like the centre-back will not recover in time for the clash with Palace.
As a result, Gabriel Magalhaes is likely to be partnered at the back by one of Jakub Kiwior or Rob Holding. Given Arteta is never afraid to make a big decision, it is likely he’ll favour Kiwior despite the Poland international playing just once for the club since his £21million switch in January.
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Oleksandr Zinchenko is expected to enjoy his usual starting role of left-back, though the Ukrainian will no doubt venture all over the pitch throughout. At right-back, Ben White will surely keep his place, though he could have deputised at centre-back if Takehiro Tomiyasu had not also sustained an injury against Sporting.
Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka will line up as a central midfield duo, tucked slightly behind captain Martin Odegaard, who was arguably Arsenal’s only real shining light last time out.
That midfield trio has worked wonders this term and Arteta will see little reason to change it this late in the season.
They will surely be flanked by the wide duo of Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, who have both been among the goals of late. The pair have scored 12 and 10 respectively in the league this season, with five of the former’s coming in the last five league outings.
Gabriel Jesus’ return to league action away at Fulham last weekend was followed by a first start in four months against Sporting and with the stakes as high as they are against Palace, expect the Brazilian to lead the line once again.
Predicted Arsenal line-up vs Crystal Palace, (4-2-3-1):Ramsdale, White, Kiwior, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Xhaka; Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Jesus