Arsenal host Napoli in the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal tie at the Emirates on Thursday night. The Gunners head into the fixture as one of the leading favourites to lift the trophy. However, manager Unai Emery is sweating the fitness of two of his top stars ahead of the match.
Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka fighting for fitness
Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny has missed Arsenal’s last two matches and Emery is still awaiting tests to see if the Frenchman will be fit to start against Napoli.
Koscielny is struggling with a foot injury and Emery claims he is still “progressing”.
Granit Xhaka is also fighting for fitness for Napoli’s visit. The Swiss international has not played since picking up an injury during the international break.
Emery has stated both players are major doubts for the game.
Arsenal away form is a worry
While Arsenal will play the first leg of the quarterfinal at the Emirates, they will go away to the San Paolo for the follow-up match.
Arsenal’s away form in all competitions has been their Achille’s heel this term. The Gunners fell to a 1-0 loss away from home on Sunday against Everton throwing their fight for the top four into jeopardy.
Arsenal have lost the away legs of both Europa League knockout matches this season. The Gunners lost 1-0 to BATE Borisov in Belarus and 3-1 to Rennes in France.
Emery’s men rebounded from both losses to win the second legs 3-0 both times. Arsenal do not have the luxury of playing at the Emirates in the second leg and will need to get off to a strong start on Thursday night.
Arsenal’s record against Napoli
Arsenal and Napoli recently met in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage. The Gunners won the first match between the clubs, 2-0, at the Emirates. Napoli secured a 2-0 victory in Italy later on in the group stage.
Last season, Arsenal reached the semifinals of the Europa League in Arsene Wenger’s last season in charge. The Gunners drew the first leg of the semifinal against Atletico Madrid, 1-1, at the Emirates.
Wenger’s team bowed out of the competition in the second leg, losing 1-0 in Madrid.