Paris (AFP) – Having made a perfect start to their Europa League campaign, Arsenal can secure a place in the knockout phase with two group games to spare by beating Red Star Belgrade on Thursday.
The Gunners play host to the 1991 European Cup winners in north London a fortnight after Olivier Giroud’s remarkable late goal secured a 1-0 win in Belgrade.
Having also got the better of Cologne and BATE Borisov, Arsene Wenger’s side are top of Group H with maximum points and simply avoiding defeat against the Serbian league leaders could be enough for them to progress to the last 32.
For a side growing in confidence after four straight wins in all competitions, another victory should not be too much to ask, even if Wenger will again rotate his squad with one eye on Sunday’s Premier League clash with Manchester City.
Everton, the other English side in the competition, are in a rather less favourable position as they head to France to take on Lyon.
Languishing in the relegation zone in the Premier League and without a permanent manager since the sacking of Ronald Koeman last week, the Toffees could be eliminated from Europe on Thursday.
Such a scenario will arise if they lose and Group E leaders Atalanta avoid defeat in their game against Apollon Limassol in Cyprus.
It has been a miserable continental campaign so far for Everton, who were held at home by Apollon either side of a defeat to Atalanta and a 2-1 home loss to Lyon last month.
They have lost both games so far under caretaker manager David Unsworth, following a 2-1 reverse at Chelsea in the League Cup with a 2-0 Premier League defeat at Leicester City, but youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin put a positive spin on things ahead of the trip to France.
“The match at Chelsea showed we have those good performances in us, then in the second half against Leicester they had a two-goal cushion but we were trying to break them down for the full 45 minutes and were the better side,” he told the club’s website.
“If we can keep bringing that intensity and standard of play to our performances, then we will win games.”
However, unbeaten in seven and fresh from four straight wins, Lyon are in formidable form and are determined to go all the way to the final which will be held at their own Groupama Stadium.
Among the other clubs who could secure qualification for the last 32 with two games to spare on Thursday are Dynamo Kiev, Lazio and Zenit St Petersburg.
Surprise Swedish side Ostersund — coached by Englishman Graham Potter — will extend their run in Europe into the New Year with the right combination of results as they visit Athletic Bilbao.
Meanwhile, in the midst of a poor run of form in Serie A, AC Milan are also in a position to progress to the last 32 with a win against AEK Athens in Greece in Group D.
But they must do so without Argentina midfielder Lucas Biglia, who has been ruled out with a knee problem.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Bronze to leave Women’s Super League club Man City
- Ibrahimovic endured sleepless nights to deliver Serie A title for Milan
- Man Utd report revenue increase despite ‘disappointing’ season
- FIFPro sounds alarm over player workloads ahead of Champions League final
- Vote for the 2026 World Cup host cities in North America
- ‘One in a million’ Klopp makes Liverpool a European giant again
- Liverpool’s Diaz from indigenous community that breeds ‘toughness’
- Mbappe’s PSG to play three games in Japan in July
- The Spaniard raised at Barcelona who made Hong Kong football history
- ‘One in a million’ Klopp makes Liverpool a European giant once more