Champions League

Gunners aim for perfect Europa start

2019-09-19 13:49
Unai Emery
Unai Emery (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Arsenal boss Unai Emery has confirmed his decision to rest two key players ahead of Thursday's Europa League opener against Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Gunners face the German outfit in their opening Europa League group game, but there will be no place in the side for Mesut Ozil after Emery opted to leave him at home, rather than take him as part of his squad.

Emery insists the 30-year-old needs rest despite playing just 71 minutes of football this season - having not featured until he started Sunday's 2-2 Premier League draw at Watford.

He missed the start of the campaign after the security threat and then through illness.

Ozil retired from international football with Germany last year amid controversy and, on what would have been his first return to play in the country, he would have no doubt been in for a hostile reception from a fervent Frankfurt crowd.

But instead, Emery offered up the rather bizarre excuse that Ozil was instead being rested alongside Sokratis Papastathopoulos - who has played every minute of the opening five Premier League games of the season.

"We are playing now a lot of matches and I want to use different players and also can have some rotation in the first 11 and in the 19 players in the squad for tomorrow and Sokratis and Mesut they rest this match," he said.

"I prefer after the Sunday match to rest that match and to train and to be ready for Sunday."

Meanwhile, the Gunners will be without star forward Alexandre Lacazette, who has an ankle injury and has not made the trip either.

Full-backs Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are back in training but the game comes too soon for them so they will both miss out.

There is better news for fit-again Rob Holding, who is in line for a first appearance for nine months after being included in Emery's squad.

Eintracht will be a tough test for the Gunners after they made the Europa League semi-finals last season.

They hope that Serbia winger Filip Kostic is fit after he missed Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Augsburg in the Bundesliga, while fellow Serb midfielder Mijat Gacinovic has recovered from a groin problem and should be fit enough to take his place in the side.

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