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Europa League preview: Arsenal, Chelsea aim to stay perfect

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Arsenal and Chelsea will both clinch their Europa League groups with victories on Thursday.

The Gunners are at home to face a Sporting Lisbon side it defeated in Portugal two weeks ago, while the Blues head to Belarus for a rematch with BATE Borisov.

[ MORE: Champions League Weds. wrap ]

Chelsea will use Eden Hazard, but has left Cesc Fabregas, Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, Toni Rudiger and Victor Moses back in London. Here’s manager Maurizio Sarri:

“Sometimes it’s better for the players to train rather than just play, to train on some particular physical qualities. If they only play they will lose that physical quality they need, and that’s been proved scientifically over a 21-day period.”

Arsenal will use Alex Iwobi in its match, the Nigerian playing very well in Unai Emery‘s system.

Iwobi credits Emery’s training sessions:

“Unai’s very intense in training and he’s demanding because he knows how good we are. He always wants us to be at 100 per cent, giving our best. It’s not just him, though. We know what we expect from each other, so we’re also trying to get the best out of each other in training.”

Up in Scotland, the Old Firm rivals are facing markedly different challenges on Thursday.

Steven Gerrard‘s Rangers are in Russia to face a group-bottom Spartak Moscow who can leapfrog their visitors with a win. And Celtic needs to attack after losing at RB Leipzig, with the Bundesliga side visiting with a three-point advantage on the third place Bhoys

Full schedule

10:50 a.m. ET
Fenerbahce vs. Anderlecht
Astana vs. Jablonec

12:55 p.m. ET
Spartak Moscow vs. Rangers
Lazio vs. Marseille
Malmo vs. Sarpsborg 08
Genk vs. Besiktas
Dynamo Kiev vs. Stade Rennes
Rapid Vienna vs. Villarreal
BATE Borisov vs. Chelsea
MOL Vidi vs. PAOK
Apollon Limassol vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Krasnodar vs. Standard Liege
Akhisar Belediyespor vs. Sevilla

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. FC Zurich
Real Betis vs. AC Milan
Slavia Prague vs. Copenhagen
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Spartak Trnava
Rosenborg vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Vorskla Poltava vs. Qarabag
Arsenal vs. Sporting Lisbon
Celtic vs. RB Leipzig
Olympiacos vs. F91 Dudelange
Bordeaux vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Ludogorets vs. AEK Larnaca

Liverpool loses late lead at Arsenal

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  • Gunners with 62 percent of the ball
  • Shot attempts 13-12 for Reds
  • Milner opens scoring
  • Lacazette levels late

Alexandre Lacazette turned a charging Alisson Becker inside out, then curled a ball inside the far post to give Arsenal a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

James Milner‘s 62nd minute goal looked set to give the Reds all three points, but Liverpool’s lead atop the table is only a point before Man City plays Sunday.

Arsenal stays fourth with 23 points, but would fall behind Spurs if their North London rivals beat Wolves later Saturday.

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The host came charging out of the gates, attacking the right side of Liverpool’s defense. Alisson Becker made a fine stop as Alexandre Lacazette raced to the near post.

Joe Gomez conceded a corner with a fine block on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alisson rescued a training ground corner kick routine which was mishit by Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The Armenian captain came close to turning a cross inside the post, but his header drifted wide of the far post.

Liverpool’s first real chance went in the back of the net, but Sadio Mane was offside when he potted the rebound of a Roberto Firmino shot.

Bernd Leno then made a nice stop on a marauding Virgil Van Dijk, and Leno stopped an Andy Robertson rip a minute later.

Arsenal had a goal of itself pulled back for offside when Lacazette headed home in the 40th.

Van Dijk headed off the goal post just before the break.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Leno couldn’t collect Sadio Mane’s cross in the 62nd minute, and Milner belted it behind the Arsenal goalkeeper.

Becker tipped Lucas Torreira‘s shot over the goal 80 seconds later as Arsenal bid to level the score, and Liverpool dealt well with the ensuing corner kick.

Lacazette turned and shot a side-panel wonder in the 83rd minute to set-up a grandstand finish.

Mane came within inches and a deflection of giving the Reds another lead within a minute.

Hector Bellerin tried his luck in the 88th, but missed the frame.

Lacazette leads Arsenal to win over Watford

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  • Own goal puts Gunners ahead
  • Lacazette finds Ozil for 2-0
  • Watford winless in four

Arsenal broke through late to beat Watford 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Craig Cathcart‘s 81st minute own goal was joined by Mesut Ozil’s 83rd minute strike to provide three points to the Gunners.

Arsenal sits fifth, level on points with fourth place Spurs. Watford drops into sixth, two points back of the Gunners.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Alexandre Lacazette could’ve won a penalty had he gone down under a Christian Kabasele challenge, but he wobbled forward and mishit a shot. Perhaps he should’ve anyway, by that logic, but we digress.

Watford backstop Ben Foster made a decent stop on Granit Xhaka as the half-progressed, while Arsenal’s story between the sticks was a substitution when Petr Cech was injured and gave way to Bernd Leno.

Arsenal’s second half breakthrough began when an Alex Iwobi cross became Cathcart’s own goal and escalated quickly, with Ozil making it 2-0 within three minutes.

Lacazette assisted the Ozil goal with a decent low cross.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Iwobi: Arsenal working harder in training under Emery

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Whether he meant it or not, Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi left a little dig in with former Gunners manager Arsene Wenger.

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In speaking about his new manager, Unai Emery, Iwobi said that the squad was working more on fitness than in the past. The improved fitness and quality helped Arsenal Thursday in its Europa League opener, a 4-2 win over Ukrainian side Vorskla.

“He demands a lot, we are working a lot harder in training, running a bit more,” Iwobi said in an interview.

Since losing its opening two games of the season, Arsenal has begun to return to its expected level, winning its last four games in all competitions, including two straight Premier League road matches. Iwobi in particular has scored one goal and assisted on another in two Premier League matches, as well as assisting on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s opener on Thursday.

The improved fitness may not show now, but it could help Arsenal down the road, when they face a busy stretch of games this fall between Europa League, Premier League and domestic cup competitions. “…as you can see, we are buying into his ideas and we are enjoying our time with him,” Iwobi said. “We are not going to dwell on the past, we are always looking forward to the next game. We learn from out mistakes, like we have done. We have got four wins on the bounce now so we have just got to keep on going keep this momentum going and try to get as many wins as we can, like I’m saying.”

Alonso gets Chelsea past Arsenal in thriller

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  • Pedro, Morata put hosts up 2-0
  • Mkhitaryan, Iwobi level by half
  • Winner comes from Alson

Marcos Alonso buried Eden Hazard‘s 81st minute pass to lead Chelsea past Arsenal 3-2 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Alvaro Morata and Pedro helped the Blues build a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, but Unai Emery’s Gunners recovered to make it 2-2 at halftime.

Arsenal next hosts West Ham United, while Chelsea is off to Newcastle United.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

The hosts were up thanks to a left-sided barnstorming, with Willian starting the play with a with a lay-off inside his own half. The next move saw Marcos Alonso racing toward the edge of the 18 to pass across for Pedro to finish with calm.

Ross Barkley came close to doubling the advantage in the 13th minute.

It should’ve been level when Matteo Guendouzi fired Hector Bellerin through the right of the Chelsea back line, but the offside and uncalled Spaniard’s pull back was aired over the goal by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Moments later, it was 2-0 Chelsea through Morata. The Spanish striker ran from midfield and held off a Shkrodan Mustafi challenge before cutting to fire past Cech.

Arsenal blew a second well-worked chance over the frame, this time with Henrikh Mkhitaryan sending a point-blank offering into the stands. Woof.

Mkhitaryan redeemed himself with a powerful shot from outside the box. The Armenian captain was in good position after Alex Iwobi found him with Nacho Monreal‘s inspired interception.

That was not the end of the first half scoring.

It was close to a mirror image of an earlier missed chance by Aubameyang, as Iwobi ran into the 18 to belt  a shot home for 2-2.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The chances did not dry up as the second half began in London, and a N'Golo Kante shot was blocked to the cries of handball from Chelsea’s players.

Jorginho‘s deflected 64th minute rip was collected by Cech after Chelsea introduced Eden Hazard off the bench.

Momentum swung Arsenal’s way as the match reached is final quarter-hour, as Kepa Arrizabalaga made a save and took a beating in the 77th minute.

Kante popped a header over the goal in the 79th minute after running in front of Sokratis.

Scoring defender extraordinaire Alonso put Chelsea back on top in the 81st, slapping Eden Hazard’s hopeful pullback beyond Cech.