This week could define our season with regards to Champions League football. It starts today with the match at home against the in-form Manchester United. We were unlucky to have been pegged back to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture but at the Emirate in the FA cup tie, despite dominating them in possession and territory, they beat us by 3-1. I expect that they would be trusting on the same tactics of sitting deep and countering to do the job for them again. They have devastating pace in the persons of Lukaku, Rashford and Martial, their front three. A high line by our defence would be us inviting trouble. For that reason Emery might choose not to press too high in order not to oblige their attack with so much space to run into as high press goes with high defensive line. Such a tweak from Emery would set the stage for the battle to be won and lost on the flanks. Still, don’t rule out somebody pulling a rabbit out of the hat.
We haven’t been able to find the effective replacement for injured Bellerin in our right flank. Not Lichsteiner. Mustafi is a good winner of the ball but a poor quick-passer whose overlapping runs and crosses as a wingback aren’t of the finest quality. If only Maitland-Niles can resolve to employ fully and proactively his great athleticism, Bellerin wouldn’t be missed all that much. I expect his great promises to get him a start today. I also expect rested Kolasinac (our flanking tank) to also start which would suggest that Emery is likely to opt for a back-3.
When would Man United’s run of six EPL consecutive away wins (10 in all competitions) come to an end? No better day than today in a loss at the home of football. We have been neck to neck with them and Chelsea for the last Champions League spot. It is a fierce race that has already sucked in the Spuds who bottled it against Southampton yesterday. It is now four teams for two CL spots and there is no gainsaying it, the more the merrier. Lacazette is rested and roaring to go. Ramsey is crucial as a midfielder who offers a late body in the opponent’s box. The Greek god Sokratis would be available. Torreira is starting a three-match suspension. Mkhi could do with a little rest by joining the fray from a strong bench.
Predicted line up with 6 changes made:-
~~Sokratis. Koscielny. Monreal.~~
M-Niles. Xhaka. Guendouzi. Kolasinac.
~~~Ramsey. Lacazette. Iwobi.~~~
Bench: Cech, Mustafi, Elneny, Suarez, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubamayang.
From now to the end of the season every of our match is a cup final. How much our team can cope with that pressure would prove critical to our fortune which surely would have a bearing on how much voice our fans are able to give to the team particularly when at home …..