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Arsenal predicted XI vs Molde as Mikel Arteta faces playing without three stars


Arsenal face Molde in the Europa League on Thursday needing just a point to secure qualification to the knockout stages – but boss Mikel Arteta suffered a triple blow ahead of the clash.

Bukayo Saka and Willian will both miss the game after suffering injuries during the Gunners’ 0-0 draw against Leeds United on Sunday, while Thomas Partey has also not travelled as he continues to recover from the thigh injury which forced him off during the defeat to Aston Villa.

Willian had to replaced by Reiss Nelson at half-time against Leeds after picking up a calf injury, while Saka went off for Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the hour mark after sustaining a thigh injury.

Both are aiming to be fit for Sunday’s visit of Wolves in the Premier League, but their absence from the game in Norway leaves Arteta with a selection headache, with Mohamed Elneny and Sead Kolasinac also out following recent positive tests for coronavirus.

Bernd Leno is set to start in goal, while in front of him Arsenal could play with a back four as they did in their 4-1 win over Molde in their last Europa League outing earlier this month.

Bukayo Saka came off injured against Leeds on Sunday

David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi played at the heart of the defence against the Norwegians last time and could do so again, with Maitland-Niles at right-back.

Kolasinac has started all three of the Gunners’ Europa League games but will miss out this time, so Kieran Tierney is likely to be at left-back.

With Partey and Elneny both out, Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos are likely to start in midfield, as they did against Leeds and against Molde last time.

Joe Willock played the full 90 minutes of the win against the Norwegians and looks set to get another chance to impress.

Willian’s injury could hand Nicolas Pepe a chance to make amends for his red card

Eddie Nketiah has started all three Europa League games and is again set to lead the line up front, while Willian’s injury hands Nicolas Pepe a chance to get back into Arteta’s good books following his needless red card against Leeds.

Pepe faces a three-match ban from Premier League action following his headbutt against Ezgjan Alioski, but his manager has said he will give him the support he needs to get his Arsenal career back on track.

With another place up for grabs in the attack, there could be another chance for Reiss Nelson after his appearance from the bench on Sunday.

How Arsenal could line up against Molde

Meanwhile, Pablo Mari and Gabriel Martinelli are nearing returns from long-term injuries.

Mari, who has been out since June, is now integrating into full training, while Martinelli is hoping to do the same shortly.

Arsenal predicted XI vs Molde (4-3-3): Leno; Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Luiz, Tierney; Xhaka, Ceballos, Willock; Pepe, Nketiah, Nelson.

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