Arsenal welcome Southampton to the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon and are big favourites to pick up all three points given the contrasting form of the two clubs.
The Gunners will be without four players for the weekend’s meeting, however, and could rest a few first-teamers with one eye on their Europa League quarter-final outing on Thursday.
Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been ruled out of the Southampton clash by manager Arsene Wenger after injuring his knee in Thursday’s Europa League victory over CSKA Moscow.
Manager Arsene Wenger said: “Micki came off (on Thursday) and he will be out for Sunday. He has a scan and the fear is that his medial knee ligament has been touched. We’ll know more about that soon. For how long he will be out, I don’t know.”
Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina has also been ruled out of the Emirates meeting and may not return until early May. Wenger added: “Ospina is out for two to three weeks.”
English midfielder and makeshift wing-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles could make the squad to travel to Moscow on Thursday but isn’t fit enough to feature against the Saints this weekend.
“Ainsley is short for this weekend, but he might be back for Moscow,” said his manager.
Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla remains on the treatment table too and doesn’t appear close to returning before the season comes to an end. He said back in January that he hopes to return in 2019.
Other than the aforementioned quartet, Arsenal don’t have any other injury problems ahead of the visit of Southampton, although Wenger hinted that he might rest a few players to keep them fresh for the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final outing with CSKA Moscow.
“We are focusing on the Premier League and the Europa League with the squad. We rotate a little bit from one game to the other after considering the recovery and the slight injuries or risk of injuries,” he admitted.
“As well we consider that some people, like Aubameyang, are not available in the Europa League but they are available in the Premier League. So the rotation is quite natural.”
The Gunners are expected to dispatch of their relegation-threatened opponents as they boast five consecutive wins in all competitions. Southampton, on the other hand, are 12 places and 23 points worse off than Arsenal in the Premier League table and have gone five games without a win.
Ahead of their trip to the Emirates, Southampton have managed just two away wins from 15 this season, picking up just 12 points from a possible 45 on the road. The Saints have won just one of their last six head-to-heads with Arsenal in all competitions and are major underdogs as a result.
And with Arsenal boasting four wins from their last five home games in the league, Wenger’s men should come out on top this weekend.
Arsenal’s predicted XI to face Southampton: Petr Cech; Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac; Mohamed Elneny, Jack Wilshere; Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.