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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Gunners may lack the star quality to win in Belgrade

Red Star look set to shine

Jack Wilshere is set to start for Arsenal
1 of 1

Europa League
BT Sport 2, 6pm Thursday

Arsenal fans are demanding a reaction after the Gunners' 2-1 loss at Watford on Saturday but may need to wait until after their Europa League clash against Red Star in Belgrade, which promises to be tighter than the markets anticipate.

The Londoners are odds-on to bounce back with a win but their price looks too short given the probability that Arsene Wenger will field a largely second-string side.

Wenger made nine changes for the matchday-two trip to Bate Borisov and looked on with satisfaction as his youngsters and fringe players delivered an impressive 4-2 victory.

Jack Wilshere was the star turn and will get another opportunity to remind Wenger of his talents.

Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud are also in line for starts, as are many of the youngsters who made such a good impression in Belarus.

With six points in the bank and two home games to come, Wenger can afford to take a few risks with his selection and will be mindful of keeping first-choice players fresh for a big game at Everton on Sunday.

However, Arsenal face a tricky test against the Serbian league leaders - known in their home land as Crvena Zvezda - who climbed into second place in Group H with a 1-0 victory at Cologne last month.

Red Star rode their luck at times against the German side, hitting the woodwork three times in the second half but it was far from being a smash and grab.

Vladan Milojevic's side posted 13 shots – just four fewer than their hosts' 17-shot tally – and showed a cutting edge when it mattered with Ghanaian international striker Richmond Boakye rifling home the winning goal in the 30th minute.

Boakye has scored 16 goals in 24 league appearances since joining the club from Italian side Latina in January this year and netted twice in Ghana's 5-1 victory away to Congo in last month's World Cup qualifier.

He is well supported by attacking midfielder Guelor Kanga, scorer of two goals in the last three games, and striker Aleksandr Pesic, who is the club's top league scorer this term (six goals in 12 games) but is often on the bench for Europa League games.

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The threat to Arsenal's goal looks greater than was posed by Bate and the Gunners' defensive options are stretched with Calum Chambers, Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi injured.

Arsenal cannot afford to be complacent and will aim to match the hunger they showed against Bate, when they flew out of the blocks and opened up a three-goal lead inside 25 minutes.

Given the disappointing performance at Watford, there is a glaring opportunity for players to stake a claim for more regular involvement.

Motivation should not be a problem but a lack of star quality and experience could leave them vulnerable and the sensible call is to side with the hosts to secure at least a share of the spoils.

Red Star or draw double chance
1pt 19-17 188bet

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Team news
Red Star
Abraham Frimpong (concussion) is a doubt and Ricardinho hasn't played since being forced off with injury during last Wednesday's Serbian Cup match at home to Dinamo Vranje.

Santi Cazorla and Shkodran Mustafi are out long-term and Calum Chambers (hip) and Danny Welbeck (hamstring) did not take part in training yesterday.

Key stat
Red Star are unbeaten in their last 14 home games.

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With six points in the bank and two home games to come, Wenger can afford to take a few risks with his selection
E.W. Terms
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