After winning through against Rennes the hard way , Arsenal’s Europa League adventure continues with a quarter-final first-leg encounter against Napoli on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.
Unai Emery’s men rallied from a 3-1 loss in France to win through thanks to a 3-0 home victory and know they cannot afford a sluggish start against opponents who are generally considered to be of Champions League class.
And with the Gunners still fighting for a top-four finish in the Premier League , they are going to have to perform a delicate balancing act to excel in both competitions.
If there is one man capable of doing it, though, it is Emery, who has made his name as a Europa League specialist, having won the trophy three times with Sevilla.
|Game||Arsenal vs Napoli|
|Date||Thursday, April 11|
|Time||8pm BST / 3pm EST|
|Stream (US)||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game can be watched live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial ) .
New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|Univision Deportes||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will be broadcast on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport 4K UHD. It can be streamed via BT Sport Live.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|BT Sport 2 / BT Sport 4K UHD||BT Sport Live|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Cech, Leno, Martinez|
|Defenders||Koscielny, Lichtsteiner, Monreal, Jenkinson, Kolasinac, Medley, Pleguezuelo, Mustafi|
|Midfielders||Elneny, Ramsey, Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Willock, Torreira|
|Forwards||Ozil, Iwobi, Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Nketiah, Suarez, Mkhitaryan|
Arsenal had major doubts over Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka, with only the former found fit enough to make the team.
It was expected that both Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be available to feature from the outset of the game and both have been included in Emery's XI.
Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Kostas Mavropanos and Danny Welbeck remain long-term concerns.
Lucas Torreira has been given the start after being banned at the weekend.
Confirmed Arsenal starting XI: Cech; Monreal, Sokratis, Koscielny; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang.
|Goalkeepers||Meret, Ospina, Karnezis|
|Defenders||Koulibaly, Maksimovic, Chiriches, Luperto, Ghoulam, Mario Rui, Hysaj, Malcuit|
|Midfielders||Allan, Fabian Ruiz, Zielinski|
|Forwards||Insigne, Younes, Verdi, Callejon, Ounas, Milik, Mertens|
Napoli have problems in the heart of their defence, where Vlad Chiriches is struggling with injury and there is little faith in the inexperienced Sebastiano Luperto. As such, the three-man defence that Carlo Ancelotti has often used in Europe is set to be abandoned.
Amadou Diawara and Raul Albiol are still missing.
Meanwhile, Arkadiusz Milik has been overlooked for Dries Mertens in attack, with the Belgium international set to play alongside Lorenzo Insigne.
On-loan Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina is liable to be benched.
Confirmed Napoli starting XI: Meret; Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Callejon, Fabian Ruiz, Allan, Zielinski; Insigne, Mertens
Betting & Match Odds
Arsenal are narrow favourites with bet365 , who price them at 29/20. Napoli can be backed at 2/1, while a draw is 5/2.
It is getting towards crunch time in the season for Arsenal, whose burning ambition now is to return to the Champions League next term.
Two routes remain open to Unai Emery’s men: a top-four finish in the Premier League or success in the Europa League.
The Gunners lie fifth in the Premier League following a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Everton on Sunday and face a phenomenally tight run in, with four clubs clamouring for two spots. There can be no guarantees for the Emirates outfit there.
Equally, though, Arsenal have been pitted against one of the strongest sides left in the Europa League in the form of Napoli, giving Emery a headache with regards what competition he should most focus upon. His decision is likely to determine whether his first season in charge is regarded as a success or failure.
Certainly, stronger performances than the one they mustered at Goodison Park will be required for their goal to be achieved in either competition.
“We need to be consistent in the next matches and if we can do that we can win,” Emery said after the Everton loss . “There’s frustration collectively with the result, but we won’t change our ideas and our work.”
Napoli do not have the same conundrum as their hosts: they are virtually assured of second place in Serie A and, with the title out of sight, they can afford to concentrate on European success.
Held to a 1-1 draw at home against Genoa last weekend, though, coach Carlo Ancelotti is concerned by his side’s form heading to London.
"I don’t think the players were distracted, because we haven’t talked about Arsenal at all. We knew the difficulties we could run into in Empoli, although the difficulties we ran into tonight were a little more unexpected,” he told Sky Sport Italia after that fixture.
“We’re defending badly at the moment, even when it was 11 against 10, and that means we cannot control the game. If you control the game, you don’t allow counterattacks, you don’t let the opposition to turn and run at you.
“It’s an alarm bell, certainly, because if we play like this in London, then we’re in trouble. It is unusual to see Napoli doing that, so we have four days to focus back on the basics, because these are basics we’re getting wrong.”
Given Arsenal’s away record both domestically and in Europe – they have lost both their knockout ties on the road – a positive result at the Emirates seems essential if they are to stand a chance of qualifying.