Arsenal

The Arsenal lineup that should start against Villarreal

Max Parsons
Arsenal will hope to secure a first leg victory over Villarreal
Arsenal will hope to secure a first leg victory over Villarreal / Martin Sidorjak/Getty Images
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Arsenal continue their Europa League campaign on Thursday night as they travel to Villarreal to play out the first leg of their semi final tie.

Mikel Arteta's men have found domestic duties tough this campaign. Having picked up a solitary point in their last two Premier League matches, the Gunners sit tenth in the table and are nine points off West Ham in fifth with just 15 left to play for.

Their chances for European qualification next season seem to rest on the Europa League, in which they have been close to ruthless. Arteta's side have notched 32 goals in just 12 games so far, and boast five wins and one draw in their six away trips in this season's tournament.

Their semi final opponents will not be brushed aside, however. Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery finds himself seventh in La Liga with Villarreal, although inconsistency and leaky defending have damaged them at times. El Submarino Amarillo have lost their last two in the league and haven't kept a clean sheet in five across all competitions.

To take advantage and bring a lead back to the Emirates, here's the Arsenal lineup that should start this one.

1. Goalkeeper & defenders

Kieran Tierney
Tierney's return would be a big boost for Arsenal / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Bernd Leno (GK) - Conceded a horrible own goal to gift Everton the win in their last game, but the German is number one and should continue for this huge fixture.

Hector Bellerin (RB) - Calum Chambers was preferred last time out, but Bellerin could return to add some thrust upfield and make the most of potential lapses in concentration.

Rob Holding (CB) - Hasn't missed any of the Gunners' six games this month and even captained the side against Everton.

Gabriel (CB) - In and out of the starting XI recently but could return to help Holding keep the lethal Gerard Moreno out.

Kieran Tierney (LB) - Arteta's side are boosted by the potential return of the Scotsman. He's been a huge miss and the balance he provides could be crucial in overcoming Villarreal.

2. Midfielders

Martin Odegaard
Martin Odegaard may be ready for a start / Julian Finney/Getty Images

Thomas Partey (CM) - Can be a real game changer in Arsenal's engine room and is finally getting a solid run of games, having featured in each of their last 13 outings.

Granit Xhaka (CM) - Has deputised at left back in recent weeks due to Kieran Tierney's absence, but if the Scotsman is fit enough to start Xhaka should come back into his usual central midfield position, with Dani Ceballos dropping out.

Martin Odegaard (AM) - Came on a for a cameo in the defeat to Everton and could be ready to make his full return on Thursday. If he does, he will be crucial in bypassing a tough partnership of Pau Torres and Raul Albiol at the back.

3. Forwards

Seamus Coleman, Eddie Nketiah
Eddie Nketiah in action against Everton / James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Bukayo Saka (RW) - At still just 19, Saka is one of the Gunners' most influential and stand out players. He'll look to add to his 15 goal involvements this campaign.

Alexandre Lacazette (ST) - Arteta revealed that the Frenchman is close to coming back and, if he is fit, there's no way his four goals in his three previous appearances don't earn him a start.

Emile Smith Rowe (LW) - If Odegaard comes back into the fold, Smith Rowe will likely start out wide. Aubameyang is in contention to return to action but it would be a surprise if the Gunners skipper started.

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