AP Photo/Aziz Karimov

Arsenal showcase depth in blowout of Qarabag

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  • Sokratis opens scoring
  • Smith Rowe, Guendouzi bag 1st senior goals
  • Ozil, Lacazette on bench
  • Aubameyang, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan left home

Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Emile Smith Rowe, and Matteo Guendouzi scored in Azerbaijan as Arsenal popped Qarabag 3-0 in the Europa League on Thursday.

Arsenal is now 2-0 in group play while Qarabag falls to 0-2. Arsenal now get Sporting Lisbon back-to-back in one of the league’s best group stage pairings.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]

Arsenal, clad in red shorts to go with their red shirts, controlled play early and went ahead within a few minutes of said control.

Mohamed Elneny‘s corner kick was headed towards goal, and Sokratis was onside to redirect the ball over the line.

Emile Smith Rowe was very close with a sliding effort to meet Sead Kolasinac‘s cross to the back post in the 18th minute.

Bernd Leno made a fine save on Filip Ozobic in the 40th minute, with Sokratis clearing the rebound.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Qarabag thought it was level in the 49th minute, but Mahir Madatov’s run was a split second too early before the Azerbaijan international slotted past Leno.

Arsenal made it 2-0 under pressure, with Smith Rowe running onto a feed from Alex Iwobi in the 52nd. Then Guendouzi joined Smith Rowe with historic career moments by potting his first senior goal.

Europa League LIVE: Arsenal in Azerbaijan, Chelsea at home

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Arsenal is in Azerbaijan without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while Chelsea hosts Hungarian opposition as the 2018-19 Europa League group stage moves into its second match day.

One match began earlier, with Astana and Stade Rennes matching wits in Kazakhstan.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League scoreboard ]

Unai Emery is keeping several big names out of the fire, or at least the Starting XI, at Qarabag for a 12:55 p.m. ET ahead of the Sunday’s Premier League match at Fulham.

In addition to Mkhitaryan staying home for political reasons, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (rest) and Aaron Ramsey (wife giving birth) are back in London, while Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil are on the bench.

Youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi start for the Gunners, while Sead Kolasinac returns to the side.

Chelsea hosts MOL Vidi at 3 p.m. ET

Europa League preview: Chelsea, Arsenal heavy favorites

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It comes as little surprise that Arsenal would not send all of its stars to Azerbaijan for its meeting at Qarabag, though two of the reasons are relatively rare.

For Welsh star Aaron Ramsey, it’s a happy one: His wife is set to give birth.

[ MORE: Messi’s Wembley masterclass ]

But Armenian captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel because of hostility between Armenia and Azerbaijan that robbed him of a Champions League appearance when he was with Borussia Dortmund in 2015.

UEFA said Mkhitaryan could travel, but the player will stay behind. And Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov, also the manager of the Azerbaijan national team, is piling on. From The London Standard:

“If Henrikh Mkhitaryan would come to Azerbaijan it is not the first time and until now a lot of Armenian sportsman came to Azerbaijan but it is the choice of Arsenal that they didn’t send. … Arsenal may be afraid that in front of 60,000 Azerbaijani fans, Mkhitaryan has some pressure and that is why they didn’t send Mkhitaryan.”

Yikes. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will also stay behind, but Arsenal is still heavily favored to move to 2-0 in Europa League play.

London rivals Chelsea are home for a visit from Hungarian side MOL Vidi (you may remember them as Videoton).

The favored Blues will be expected to easily win given that MOL Vidi lost 2-0 at home to BATE Borisov in the opener, but Maurizio Sarri finds himself asking questions about whether Chelsea can persevere when it comes to facing Southampton in the Premier League this weekend.

“I don’t think at West Ham we didn’t win because of the match in Greece. We changed a lot of players so I don’t think the reason was that. Of course tomorrow we need to change some players because we have spent a lot of mental and physical energy in two games against Liverpool, and after tomorrow we have to play another game in about 60 to 62 hours so we need to change.”

Full schedule

10:50 a.m. ET
Astana vs. Rennes

12:55 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. AEK Larnaca
AC Milan vs. Olympiacos
Real Betis vs. F91 Dudelange
Zenit Saint-Petersburg vs. Slavia Prague
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Celtic
Zurich vs. Ludogorets Razgrad
Rosenborg vs. RB Leipzig
Vorskla Poltava vs. Sporting CP
Anderlecht vs. Dinamo Zagreb
Fenerbahce vs. Spartak Trnava
Bordeaux vs. FC Copenhagen
Qarabag vs. Arsenal

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

UCL: Chelsea advances vs. 10-man Qarabag (video)

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  • Chelsea into knockout rounds
  • Willian draws two penalties, scores two more
  • Hazard, Fabregas score

Willian scored two goals from the run of play and drew a pair of penalties in Azerbaijan, as Chelsea beat 10-man Qarabag 4-0 on Wednesday.

His second goal was a fantastic thump from atop the arc, and further iced the result in the 85th minute.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Qarabag hung tough for the first 20 minutes, but saw its odds of getting a point take a hit with a penalty and red card.

Rashad Sadygov made contact with Willian inside the 18, and Portuguese referee Manuel de Sousa awarded a penalty. That was understandable, but surprisingly he produced his red card to send Qarabag down a man.

Eden Hazard converted his low penalty, wrong footing keeper Ibrahim Sehic, and Chelsea took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.

Willian would score a goal of his own in the 36th, part of a terrific team goal with Hazard and Pedro.

The Blues were largely content to let Qarabag have the ball early in the second half, but resumed control around the hour mark and Sehic made an outstanding stop on Hazard before substitute Alvaro Morata dragged a shot wide of the far post.

Willian drew a second penalty in the 71st minute, as Maksim Medvedev tugged on the Brazilian’s jersey on a dribble into the 18. Yellow card for this foul.

Cesc Fabregas scored but two Chelsea players infringed on the 18 thanks to the shooter’s stuttering — and stopping — PK. He finished the second as well as the first. 3-0.

Willian added the fourth with a vicious strike five minutes from the end of scheduled play.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

FOLLOW LIVE: Man Utd in Champions League

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Manchester United is in Basel as one of six 2:45 p.m. ET Wednesday kickoffs, as the Red Devils can qualify for the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League.

Jose Mourinho’s men line up like this: Romero; Darmian, Rojo, Smalling, Blind; Pogba, Herrera, Fellaini; Lingard, Lukaku, Martial

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Champions League scores ]

There was a Premier League side in action to kick off another day of UEFA Champions League action.

Chelsea picked up a 3-0 win versus Azerbaijan side Qarabag in Baku on Wednesday, boosting the Blues into the knockout rounds. CSKA Moscow beat Benfica in Russia at the same time.

Full schedule
Qarabag 0-4 Chelsea — RECAP
CSKA Moscow 2-0 Benfica — Shchennikov scores winner
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Celtic — 2:45 p.m. ET
Juventus vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Roma — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon vs. Olympiacos — 2:45 p.m. ET
Anderlecht vs. Bayern Munich — 2:45 p.m. ET
Basel vs. Manchester United — 2:45 p.m. ET