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After taking just one point from their last two outings against West Ham and Liverpool, all of Arsenal’s eggs are placed firmly in one basket as it’s the Europa League or bust for them this season.
The Gunners are winless in three appearances now, having previously suffered defeat in the second leg of their Last 16 tie with Olympiakos, while they’re unlikely to have it easy against a dangerous Slavia Prague outfit.
The Czech side overcame a spirited Rangers side in the last round, with Steven Gerrard’s men finishing an ill-tempered second leg with nine men, and they’ve now won 16 of 21 unbeaten matches.
The standards of their domestic opponents can be called into question, but they’ve consistently delivered in Europe and can’t be taken lightly.
Leicester were surprisingly beaten at the King Power following a stalemate in Prague during the knockouts, while the group stages saw the visitors record wins over the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Nice.
They have previous in this tournament having knocked out Europa League kings Sevilla in 2018/19 en route to the quarter-finals, where eventual winners Chelsea recorded a pair of narrow victories to stop them in their tracks.
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Both Teams To Score
Slavia Prague have scored at least once in 12 of their past 15 Europa League matches, and twice or more in nine of these. Even in the group of death in last season’s Champions League, where they squared off with Barcelona, Dortmund and Inter Milan, they still registered in four of six appearances as they demonstrated an eye for goal.
Slavia Prague will line up in a 4-2-3-1 as usual and their front four provide plenty of output. Abdallah Sima, Jan Kuchta, Nicolae Stanciu and Peter Olayinka are all in double figures this season, while they’ve each contributed at least five assists, so Arsenal’s rather shaky defence should have to sustain periods of pressure.
Both teams have scored in 15 of Arsenal’s last 21 Europa League games since May 2019, including five of the past six, as their only clean sheets this term were picked up in the group stages against much weaker outfits Molde and Dundalk.
In fact, the Gunners are without a clean sheet in 13 appearances across all competitions, conceding three times in each of their last two matches, so will likely have to outgun their opponents to progress further in this tournament.
Admittedly, up against the best sides they’ve encountered in Europe since the start of 2018/19 (Sevilla, Chelsea, Inter, Dortmund, Barcelona, Leverkusen and Leicester), Slavia Prague have only managed a W2-D5-L7 record over 90 minutes.
They’re also without first-choice goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar, meaning 18-year-old Matyas Vagner should start here, having been sent off after just 18 minutes at the weekend.
The defence will also be without the suspended Ondrej Kudela, while they’ll also miss experience in midfield with Ibrahim Traore sidelined, so they shouldn’t be as solid at the back.
Mikel Arteta also has some concerns, with the biggest blow Kieran Tierney joining David Luiz in the treatment room.
Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are all doubts to varying degrees as well, though going forwards the Gunners should have enough to break down their visitors.
However, Arsenal are far too short in the outright to get behind and we’ll stick with both sides to get on the scoreboard.