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Sarri, Emery face 2nd leg challenges at home

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Sevilla clinched the first Round of 16 spot with a Europa League win over Lazio on Wednesday, and the other 15 berths will be settled by late Thursday.

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That includes home second legs with varying degrees of difficult for a pair of London sides from the Premier League.

Maurizio Sarri looks like he’ll need to win the Europa League in order to get Chelsea back into the Champions League, and Chelsea needs to bounce back from another poor showing while also preparing for a hardware tilt; The FA Cup loss to Manchester United was three days before Thursday’s match with Malmo, which is three days before the League Cup final against Man City.

Chelsea holds a 2-1 lead after one leg. From ChelseaFC.com:

“We have to solve a big problem because we stayed in the other half for 75 minutes out of 90, and we were not able to score. They played only 15 or 16 balls into our box and they scored two goals. We have to solve this problem. It is probably a problem of aggression, determination in both boxes.”

Arsenal has an even bigger fish to fry than recent form, down 1-0 after one leg in Belarus.

Unai Emery is hoping the North London faithful can be the difference.

“It is also very important to play in our stadium with our supporters, and we need their support for this match and I hope there is a big atmosphere for us. Together, with their support, I know our players can play and give their all. The supporters want to watch our team play with the best performance possible.

“For this reason, I think we need good feedback between the supporters and us. … We need to listen to them supporting us and the players must give them the best performance in our stadium.”

The full schedule is below.

Thursday’s Europa League second legs
All times ET

12:55 p.m. ET
Arsenal v. BATE Borisov (BATE leads 1-0)
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Shakhtar Donetsk (2-2)
Villarreal v. Sporting Lisbon (Villareal leads 1-0)
Dinamo Zagreb v. Viktoria Plzen (Plzen leads 2-1)
Zenit Saint-Petersburg v. Fenerbahce (Fener leads 1-0)
Red Bull Salzburg v. Club Brugge (Brugge leads 2-1)
Valencia v. Celtic (Valencia leads 2-0)
Napoli v. FC Zurich (Napoli leads 3-1)

3 p.m. ET
Chelsea v. Malmo (Chelsea leads 2-1)
Benfica v. Galatasaray (Benfica leads 2-1)
Rennes v. Real Betis (3-3)
Inter Milan v. Rapid Vienna (Inter leads 1-0)
Dynamo Kiev v. Olympiakos (2-2)
Bayer Leverkusen v. Krasnodar (0-0)
Racing Genk v. Prague (0-0)

Emery on Mesut Ozil: ‘The key is in his hands’

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Mesut Ozil’s continued absence at Arsenal has baffled many and it is quite clear Unai Emery doesn’t see the German playmaker fitting into his plans.

But the Gunners boss has challenged Ozil to grab the bull by the horns, in as many words, and wants the 30-year-old (the highest-paid player in Arsenal’s history) to get back to full fitness as soon as possible.

Ahead of Arsenal’s UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg against BATE Borisov on Thursday (Arsenal trail 1-0 from the first leg in Belarus), Emery gave an update on Ozil’s progress.

“The key is in his hands and he is working very well this week, ” Emery said. “He needs to be consistent in training and for matches, without injury or being sick. Without that we can see the best Mesut with us.”

Ozil last played for Arsenal against Cardiff City on Jan. 29 and before that he went a month without playing from late December until late January. He’s been out with a combination of small injuries and illnesses, while Emery has also chosen not to select him at all in some matchday squads.

Do Arsenal miss him? The stats suggest the Gunners are a better team without Ozil and you can argue that they are better balanced without him. This season they’ve only won 56 percent of the 18 games Ozil has played in compared to 65 percent of 20 games without him.

Emery’s strong stance on Ozil not fitting into his philosophy seems to have focused the rest of the squad, but now seems like a good time to try and find a spot for the mercurial talent in the lineup.

The likes of Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been used in wide attacking roles by Emery in recent weeks but with Ozil now having a full week of training under his belt, surely he will be used against BATE, Southampton, Bournemouth and Tottenham in Arsenal’s next four games.

Having a fit and focused Ozil back in the team will be like having a new signing for Arsenal, but it is still unclear exactly where he will slot in. In Emery’s 3-4-3 formation, his role as a central playmaker has disappeared and the best chance he has of playing a pivotal role this season is if Emery changes to a 3-4-2-1 formation with Lacazette and Ozil underneath Aubameyang in attack.

Arsenal boss Emery defends team selection after BATE Borisov loss

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery has come out to defend his team selection after losing to BATE Borisov 1-0 in Europa League play on Thursday in Belarus.

Emery dropped playmaker Mesut Ozil in his ongoing feud with the German international, saying before the match that Ozil was a healthy scratch. After the loss, Emery was quick to defend his team selection, going so far as to say his team should have won despite the final scoreline.

“Last week we won and we played with the same players,” Emery said after the game. “For me today there was no difference to the performance. We deserved to win but didn’t get the result.”

“They were very organized defensively and they found the moment in the game. It’s not for one player or another. We can win with every player and lose with the same players.”

Arsenal held 77% possession and out-shot BATE 16-6, but each side picked out just three on target. Emery preached patience on multiple levels, saying his players need to control their emotions, and the fans need to understand that there is still a second leg to go.

“It’s the first match,” said Emery of the situation, with the second leg coming from the Emirates next Thursday. “We are going to play another 90 minutes next week and I’m sure it’s going to be different.

“Our big opportunity is next week at home. Today is not the result we wanted. We deserved more but they worked for this. Next week is going to be different with our supporters.”

Emery continued to talk about his players keeping their cool, and said he spoke with Alexandre Lacazette, who was sent off for a late elbow. “I didn’t see the action [Lacazette’s foul] but we need to control the frustration,” Emery said. “It’s bad news, this red card. Next week we won’t play with [Lacazette]. But it gives chances for another player.”

Ozil could be in contention to come back into the team in Lacazette’s absence, or Emery could turn to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a lone striker up front with a number of changes behind him, potentially including a return for Aaron Ramsey who missed the first leg with a knee problem.

Emery: Arsenal’s away form key to top four finish

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Arsenal have improved under Unai Emery this season, but the Spanish coach wants them to improve their away form drastically if they’re going to call the 2018-19 campaign a success.

The Gunners haven’t won any of their last six Premier League away games, losing four of those, but they still sit in sixth place and just three points off the top four. That is largely due to their impressive home form, as they’re now 12 PL games unbeaten at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal head to bottom side Huddersfield Town this Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com), so this seems like a perfect opportunity for Emery’s men to get a road win to keep their top four hopes on track.

He agreed when asked if the game at Huddersfield was a ‘must-win’ in their battle for UEFA Champions League qualification.

“My first critic is myself. We can make the top four, but we know it’s not easy,” Emery said. “We are strong at home, but I think we need to do better away. We started very well, changing our mentality to get more points away. But now we need to recover our confidence and performance. Also we know defensively we need to do better. We tried to play with three and two centre-backs. Be passionate, be calm but above all work.”

Emery revealed that Arsenal have been working on how to play against teams who will press them high up the pitch, and he believes Huddersfield will do just that this weekend as they have nothing to lose under new manager Jan Siewert.

“I think they are going to push and they are going to do a lot of duels on the pitch against us,” Emery said. “We are working on that and we also need to improve on our away form, how we can do better playing against teams who press high against us.”

When you look at Arsenal’s remaining schedule, their toughest test will come at home (where they’ve only lost once all season) as they play Manchester United.

Away from home their toughest test remaining is against Tottenham at Wembley in the north London derby, and the Gunners do have a favorable schedule compared to the rest of their top six rivals.

The two keys to them getting into the top four are as follows, 1) stay fit defensively. 2) beat the likes of Huddersfield, Burnley, Watford, Everton and Leicester away from home.

If Emery’s men can do that, they will be right in the mix for the top four as teams around them have plenty of games left against one another in the final months of the campaign.

Transfer latest: Chelsea refuse to sell Hudson-Odoi, Arsenal eye signings

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For at least the next six months, it appears Callum Hudson-Odoi will remain a Chelsea player.

That’s according to reports in England and Germany, which state that Chelsea has rejected Hudson-Odoi’s transfer request amid multiple bids from Bayern Munich. German publication SportBild reported on Monday that after a discussion with Chelsea executive Marina Granovskaia, Hudson-Odoi learned he would be staying at Stamford Bridge until at least the summer. Hudson-Odoi is in the final 18 months of his contract, and has so far refused to come to the negotiating table with Chelsea for a new contract offer, as he’s unhappy with the amount of playing time he’s received.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League Picks]

Hudson-Odoi has made five Premier League appearances this season but has not started yet. He has been a regular in the cup competitions, including the Europa League, but it appears Bayern Munich are willing to spend big, upwards of $40 million in transfer fees.

With Hudson-Odoi sticking around, he’ll have to bide his time and hope that he can produce some good performances. For Chelsea, keeping him around could also increase his value, enabling them to bring in an even bigger fee if they’re ultimately unsuccessful at re-signing him.

Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.

Here’s more stories from across the Premier League:

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