Boost for Arsenal as three players return ahead of Atletico Madrid clash

Arsenal have been given a boost ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League semi-final meeting with Atletico Madrid, with Petr Cech, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil all returning to training in the week, reports the Mirror.

There were doubts Arsene Wenger would be forced into naming a makeshift XI due to the injury crisis, but he’ll have a strong side to welcome Atleti to the Emirates. A lack of match sharpness could be the only fear, however.

Cech was suffering with a hip injury that caused him to miss Sunday’s 4-1 win over West Ham United, but he’s back on the training ground and in contention to face Diego Simeone’s side.

The 35-year-old has been an ever-present this season, making 36 appearances in all competitions, and has replaced David Ospina between the sticks in the last two Europa League outings – CSKA Moscow in the quarter-finals.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech. Picture: Ben Sutherland/Flickr

Wenger started Ospina against West Ham and will have a decision to make which goalkeeper gets the nod. The Colombian was first-choice in Europe before an injury gave Cech a chance to make the spot his own.

Wilshere is also set to return after suffering with an ankle injury. The 26-year-old missed Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat to Newcastle on April 15 and Sunday’s outing a week later but should be in the squad.

He’s made 37 appearances in all competitions but has only contributed seven goals. Wilshere’s has been average for Arsenal this season and could be on the move with his contract up in the coming months. Thursday’s meeting with Atleti is one of the biggest of his career and could decide his future.

If the midfielder impresses, he strengthens his negotiating position with the club, having turned down a contract offer that would require him to take a pay cut. If Arsenal were at full strength, he’d likely miss out against the La Liga giants this week.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere

Wenger might have to consider utilising the playmaker from the start against Atleti, however, as Mohamed Elneny is currently out with injury. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey are expected to start in midfield, but the Arsenal boss has favoured three players in the engine room in Europe.

Wilshere’s last competitive game for the Gunners was on April 12 and he’s only recently returned to training, so he might be short of match fitness.

As for Mesut Ozil, the German midfielder looks in line to return. Ozil hasn’t played since April 12, like Wilshere, missing Arsenal’s last three Premier League games – unused substitute against Southampton and not in the squad against Newcastle or West Ham.

The 29-year-old has scored and creating 19 goals in 33 games in all competitions this season and will be key to Arsenal getting a result against Atleti. He’s the most creative player in the squad and has been in fine form in the Europa League – five assists in his last four appearances.

Arsenal predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal; Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka; Danny Welbeck, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi; Alexandre Lacazette

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Crippy can be found on Twitter (@CrippyCooke). He is a sports journalist who has written for the Independent, Bleacher Report, Huffington Post, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph among others. Crippy treats football gossip with a dash of cynicism and loves tearing apart outlandish rumours.

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