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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Arsenal should continue charge towards Europa League glory

Milan soundly beaten at San Siro

Arsenal could finally have something to celebrate
1 of 1

Europa League last 16 second leg
BT Sport 2, 8.05pm Thursday

Arsenal produced one of their best performances of the season to win 2-0 against Milan at the San Siro last Thursday and they look decent value to finish the job with a victory in north London.

The Gunners went into the first leg under huge pressure after losing four games on the trot – the joint-worst losing run they have had during Arsene Wenger's tenure.

But they played with spirit, organisation and intensity and thoroughly deserved their victory.

A proud club like Milan will do its utmost to recover the situation but they have a mountain to climb.

The Rossoneri have played 16 away games against English clubs and have triumphed just once, a 1-0 success over Manchester United in the 2004-05 Champions League last 16.

They have not scored on their three visits to Arsenal and a lack of firepower is a major problem for manager Gennaro Gattuso, who is struggling to come up with a potent attacking formation.

Milan's joint-top scorers in Serie A this season are Patrick Cutrone and Suso, with six goals each.

But Suso has found the net just once in his last 15 appearances and Cutrone was ineffective in the first leg before being substituted in the 67th minute.

Gattuso's men have to push forward and take a few risks and that should suit Arsenal, who are usually adept at exploiting extra space on the counter-attack.

Arsenal's attacking resources are restricted by the ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the ongoing absence of Alexandre Lacazette but Danny Welbeck offers a pacy outlet and should not be short of decent service with Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil starting to play with more confidence.

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Arsenal should be more of a threat from the full-back positions with Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal back in full training and likely to return.

And the heart of the defence is at full strength with Laurent Koscielny benefiting from being rested for Sunday's 3-0 success at home to Watford.

Arsenal's performance against Watford was far from perfect but there was more of a spring in their step after the second goal went in and they started to play with extra belief.

Given their recent rise in confidence, perhaps the main danger is complacency.

However, Arsenal learned a useful lesson in the last 32 against Ostersunds, losing the return leg 2-1 against the never-say-die Swedes, and they are highly unlikely to start in a such a sloppy manner against Milan.

Each step on the road to recovery is a small one given the size of the hole that was dug earlier in the campaign.

But Arsenal are beginning to look like serious contenders for the Europa League and their progress to the last eight should be achieved with something to spare.

1pt 21-20 general

Premier League standings

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Team news
Alexandre Lacazette (knee) is out and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible but Nacho Monreal (back), Hector Bellerin (knee) and Shkodran Mustafi (groin) are in full training and should feature.

A change at right-back is assured after Davide Calabria was left out of the 19-man squad.

Key stat
Milan have won just one of their 16 away matches against English teams.

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Gattuso's men have to push forward and take a few risks and that should suit Arsenal
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