Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted David Ospina, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were injury doubts ahead of Thursday’s Europa League meeting with Atletico Madrid.
Ospina has a rib injury from Sunday’s defeat at Manchester United. The Colombian international had not long returned from spraining his ankle earlier in the month but could now be left out of the squad for the biggest game of the season.
Wenger said: “Ospina has a rib problem. We’ll see how well everyone recovers. Thursday will come very quickly. We’ll have to monitor them over the next 48 hours. We’ll know more on Tuesday.”
The 29-year-old may not have been starting anyway. His lack of playing time in recent weeks would make Petr Cech a cert to start, but Matt Macey might now be required to sit on the bench in Ospina’s stead.
Ospina suffered the blow when challenged by Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini and wasn’t the only one to come out of Sunday’s game with an issue.
Iwobi could miss Arsenal’s Europa League clash as he’s got a hamstring injury. The 21-year-old was unlikely to start against Atleti, having failed to start in the Gunners’ last five outings, but he can be a useful impact player when called upon.
The Nigerian midfielder was left on the bench in the first leg but was given a full 90 minutes against Manchester United and did no harm to his chances of playing this week.
When asked if Iwobi would be out for Thursday’s game, Wenger said: “Definitely? At the moment, no. Alex Iwobi has a hamstring problem.”
The biggest news is about Mkhitaryan who had only just returned from injury against his former club on the weekend. The 29-year-old scored in the defeat to United but was brought off in the second half after picking up a knock.
“I took off Mkhitaryan because he had a little knock on his knee again, on the same knee – we could see that just looking at him in the dressing room,” Wenger added.
It’s a major blow for the Gunners as he’d been in fine form since making the switch on January – contributing nine goals in 13 games in all competitions. He was a standout performer on Sunday and will be a loss if he can’t play against Atleti.
Wenger was able to leave out Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette on Sunday, so Arsenal should be well-rested to face Diego Simeone’s side.
It will be a tough task playing at the Wanda Metropolitano as the La Liga giants have kept 11 clean sheets at home on the bounce.
With Ospina, Cech will start in goal. Ainsley Maitland-Niles started in midfield against United but Ramsey and Wilshere line up alongside Granit Xhaka on Thursday.
Ozil and Welbeck should start in attack with Lacazette leading the line through the middle.
Arsenal predicted XI vs Atletico Madrid: Petr Cech; Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal; Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey; Jack Wilshere; Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck.