Mesut Özil

GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

Leave a comment

The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men meet Braga at the Molineux, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow

Watch Live: Watford v. Arsenal

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mesut Ozil makes his first start of the season as Arsenal visits Watford and new/old manager Quique Sanchez Flores on Sunday at Vicarage Road (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Ozil has two goals and four assists in nine appearances against Watford.

Dani Ceballos is also starting for the Gunners, who will be without Alexandre Lacazette for the next few weeks.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gerard Deulofeu heads into the Starting XI for the Hornets, who will have in-form Will Hughes on the other side of the field.


LINEUPS

Watford

Arsenal

PL Sunday Preview: Everton hosts Wolves; Tottenham visit Arsenal

Getty Images
1 Comment

Saturday’s action was jam-packed, but two more fixtures are left to be settled in Matchweek 4 on Sunday.

[ MORE: Liverpool play ‘perfect’ game against Burnley | Highlights ]

Everton v. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Having lost to Aston Villa 2-0 in their last Premier League bout, Everton went into their midweek League Cup match against Lincoln City with one objective in mind: to resuscitate a dead attack. They did so, winning 4-2 with a pair of goals from attacking players such as Alex Iwobi and Richarlison. No more than ever, the Toffees, who have only scored a goal in three matches despite registering 34 shots, will hope to implement the same levels of productiveness at Goodison Park.

Wolves, however, are hungrier than ever for their first taste of three points this season. Despite having drawn the first three bouts of the season, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side proved to be too much for Torino in a two-leg series midweek, qualifying for the Europa League group stage for the first time in nearly 40 years. With the excitement that comes from a feat such as returning to European competition coupled with striker Raul Jimenez’s fine scoring form, there are zero doubts that Wolves have the upper hand on the majority of teams in the league when it comes to momentum. For now, that joy has yet to seep into Premier League play, but it could be just around the corner.

INJURIES: Everton —  OUT: Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh); QUESTIONABLE: None | Wolves  — OUT: None; QUESTIONABLE: None


Arsenal v. Tottenham — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After what was an abysmal loss to a lowly Newcastle, Spurs march into Emirates Stadium in this season’s first North London derby with their heads down. It was not anticipated for Mauricio Pochettino and Co. to be in a conundrum this early, but that’s reality for Tottenham. Only in their first match (against Aston Villa) did the North London side register more shots on target than their competition. If one digs deeper, the offensive woes are only surface problems for the side. Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen are reportedly one foot out the door with moves lined up away from Tottenham. And if Spurs fail to find their groove on Sunday, a loss to rivals Arsenal will only make matters worse.

Arsenal come in with a fresh loss under their belts, too. A defeat at Anfield against a record-setting Liverpool, however, is a different story. In his second season at the helm, Unai Emery holds a better record after three games than during his first time around.

Conveniently, against Tottenham, in what is the fiercest match of a young season for Arsenal, Emery hopes to rely on Mesut Ozil for the first time this season.

“We need him,” Emery said ahead of Sunday’s North London Derby. “And [ we need] him first to be consistent in training, to be available in each match. For example last week he wasn’t ready to play 100% in Liverpool. This week he is getting better with each training [session] and I think physically he is now better. He is closer to helping us. We need him because he is a different player in our team. He can help us with his quality.”

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holding (knee), Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin), Kieran Tierney (groin); QUESTIONABLE: None | Tottenham  — OUT: Tanguy Ndombele (thigh), Kyle Walker-Peters (hamstring), Juan Foyth (ankle), Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Eric Dier (hip)

Ozil, Kolasinac available for Arsenal

Leave a comment

Arsenal manager Unai Emery will have two new starting options to consider this week, with the thankful return of Mesut Ozil and Saed Kolasinac.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

After a security scare last week kept Ozil and Kolasinac from traveling north to face Newcastle, Arsenal confirmed that the pair will be available for selection against Burnley this Saturday at the Emirates Stadium.

“Am I pleased that they’re back? Of course,” Emery told reporters at a press conference. “For us, for me, first they’re a person and second they’re a player. We’re continuing our way with all the players who are ready with us and consistent every day in training. They came back on Tuesday and it’s the circumstance I told you. Mesut was sick yesterday but today is getting better. When they are training regularly every day and consistent every day it’s good news for us because we can choose them to help us in matches – and the first match is Saturday.”

Ozil and Kolasinac were victims of an attempted carjacking in July, though Kolasinac bravely fought off the offenders after jumping out of the car. However, a new threat emerged last week that was concerning enough that Arsenal felt it was safer to keep the pair in London.

According to Emery though, aside from Ozil recovering from illness, the pair feel safe at the training ground and are mentally ready to play.

“We are 100 percent with them,” Emery said, referring to the club being confident they are ready to play. “The mentality is now on focusing on us, for training and matches.”

The return of Ozil and Kolasinac gives Emery more pieces to use heading into the match with Burnley. Against Newcastle, Emery went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Nacho Monreal at left back and youngsters Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson starting in attacking midfield. Kolasinac could easily slot in at left back or even left wing back if Monreal stays in as a third defender, while Ozil can of course play anywhere along the front line.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Ozil after a rocky first year under Emery. Ozil went from being almost the first name on the teamsheet under Arsene Wenger to second-choice due to his lack of defensive prowess under Emery. Perhaps, with the German National Team in the rear-view mirror for Ozil, he has remodeled his game somewhat this preseason and is ready to contribute on both ends of the pitch.

Ozil, Kolasinac unavailable over safety fears

Getty Images
1 Comment

Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac will not be available to play for Arsenal at Newcastle United this Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Gunners have released a statement on the situation, as both players were targeted in an attack in London last month and reports state they have been singled out again over the past few days.

During the attack in north London Ozil and his wife were trapped inside his car while Bosnian international defender Kolasinac grappled with the knife-wielding attackers in the street and the Arsenal stars then escaped to a nearby restaurant.

Here’s the update Arsenal gave on Ozil and Kolasinac ahead of the trip to St James’ Park:

“Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac will not be part of the squad for our opening match against Newcastle United following further security incidents which are being investigated by the police. The welfare of our players and their families is always a top priority and we have taken this decision following discussion with the players and their representatives. We are liaising with the police and are providing the players and their families with ongoing support. We look forward to welcoming the players back to the squad as son as possible. We will not be making any further comment on the matter.”