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Arsenal head into Thursday night’s Europa League tie against Dundalk without defender David Luiz. The Brazilian will miss the match through injury leaving Mikel Arteta with only two senior centre-backs available for selection. One of those is Shkodran Mustafi who has recently returned from a spell on the sidelines. Young winger Reiss Nelson may also potentially start as Arteta stated that he “will get the opportunities” after the club backtracked on sending him out on loan. The Gunners travel to Old Trafford on Sunday, therefore the starting eleven will likely feature some fringe players.
It is not anticipated that Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli will drift too far away from the starting line-up he picked for the Molde defeat. Veteran goalkeeper Gary Rodgers is set to return after being rested during Sunday’s defeat to Waterford. Like their opponents, Dundalk also have a decisive game on the horizon. They currently sit in third place, just one point ahead of Waterford. Their next league game is against St. Patrick’s Athletic on Sunday as the season draws to a close.
Mikel Arteta on Dundalk and Filippo Giovagnoli
In his pre-match press conference, Arsenal boss Arteta highlighted Dundalk’s strengths: “They’re really well organised, they make it really hard and they will be coming here with incredible passion”. Whilst acknowledging the difference in quality between both sides, Arteta vowed that his team won’t take the game for granted.
Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli’s story has also triggered a degree of fascination from the Arsenal boss. He admitted to watching a long interview with Giovagnoli, because he wanted to learn more about the Italian and his methods. Both managers will soon go head to head, but unfortunately not on the Emirates Stadium touchline. Giovagnoli is yet to attain his UEFA Pro Licence and as a result will have to coach his side from the stands.
Dundalk will want to prove a point on Thursday evening. There is more to their play than ‘passion’. They’re not arriving in London to marvel at Arsenal’s current crop of Premier League players. They need points on the board. As young Dundalk fan Sophie Neary simply put it, “If Jamie Vardy can score against Arsenal then why can’t Pat Hoban score against Arsenal?”.
Arsenal vs Dundalk kicks off at 8pm this evening and will be available to watch on Virgin Media Two.