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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Gunners can blast through Bate's defences

Strong squad helps Wenger

Shkodran Mustafi celebrates a goal for Arsenal
1 of 1

Europa League
BT Sport 2, 6pm Thursday

Arsenal lived up to their status as Europa League Group H favourites by beating Cologne 3-1 at the Emirates a fortnight ago and they can pick up another three points against Bate Borisov in Belarus.

Arsene Wenger has criticised the scheduling which sees Arsenal follow up their 2,800-mile round trip to Belarus with a Sunday lunchtime Premier League match at home to Brighton, labelling it "a bit cruel".

But the Londoners can get the job done with a side that will combine youth and experience.

Wenger made nine changes for the Europa League matchday one clash with Cologne and watched on with satisfaction as his team came from 1-0 down to beat their enthusiastic opponents.

Fringe players will be getting another opportunity and there will be no involvement for rested senior men Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny, who have not made the trip.

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Olivier Giroud is set to lead the Gunners' attack with support from Theo Walcott but some of Arsenal's youngsters will get the chance to shine, perhaps including Josh Dasilva and Reiss Nelson, who featured in the 1-0 victory at home to Doncaster in the League Cup third round.

Bate have a point on the board after drawing 1-1 away to Red Star Belgrade on matchday one but they could count themselves fortunate after losing the shot count 24 to 12.

They were once regulars in the Champions League, contesting the group stage in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, but they have gone backwards in the last two seasons and their 11-year reign as Belarus champions is under threat.

Leaders Shakhter Soligorsk and second-placed Dinamo Minsk are above them in the domestic championship which has only seven rounds of fixtures left to play.

Wide attacker Mikhail Gordeichuk is their main goal threat, scoring 14 goals in 23 league games this season, and he should be confident after a hat-trick in Saturday's 6-0 success at home to Slutsk.

But Bate have to be judged on their European results and they have done nothing this season to suggest they are capable of matching even a second-string Arsenal side.

They lost out in the Champions League third qualifying round to Czech champions Slavia Prague and owed their place in the Europa League group stage to a 3-2 aggregate success over Ukrainian strugglers Oleksandriya, who have won one of ten games in their domestic championship.

Bate have claimed some memorable Champions League home victories in fairly recent times – overcoming Bayern Munich 3-1 in October 2012 and Roma 3-2 in September 2015 – but they approach the Arsenal match looking to end a five-match winless sequence at home in the Europa League.

They struggle to raise their game for the tougher demands of European football and could be exposed by Arsenal, who are one of the strongest teams in the competition.

Arsenal -1 on Asian handicap
1pt 41-50 bet365

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Team news
Bate Borisov
The hosts have reported no fresh injuries since Saturday's 6-0 victory at home to Slutsk.

Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka have not travelled, Alex Iwobi (thigh) and Danny Welbeck (groin) are out.

Key stat
Bate Borisov have not kept a clean sheet in their last ten European matches.

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Olivier Giroud is set to lead the Gunners' attack and Alexis Sanchez – a surprise starter against Cologne - is in the squad
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