Arsenal opens the Europa League quarterfinals at home vs. CSKA Moscow.
Arsenal's bid for a return to the UEFA Champions League continues with the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal tie with CSKA Moscow.
After resting a few key players over the weekend in their league victory over Stoke City, it is clear the priority is beginning to shift towards the European competition.
The Gunners may have been happy with their quarter final draw, but certainly should not underestimate the Russian side, who have gotten the better of Arsenal in the past.
Here's the rundown of Thursday night's clash:
Arsenal seem to have steadied the ship for now after bagging back to back league wins against Stoke City and Watford. The Gunners had suffered three straight league defeats before that, and an EFL Cup final defeat to Manchester City.
The Europa League is proving to be Arsenal's only saving grace in what is otherwise their worst ever season under the management of Arsene Wenger. The Gunners looked dominant in their away leg against AC Milan in the previous round. The Italian side were dispatched of with relative ease as Arsenal went through on aggregate 5-1.
CSKA Moscow managed to defeat Lyon in the last round of the competition by virtue of away goals. At 3-2 win in France earned the Russian club their progression to the quarterfinals.
The Horses have won their last three Russian Premier League matches as they continue to battle for the league title. CSKA are third in the table and five points behind league leaders Lokomotiv Moscow.
CSKA became the first Russian club to win a European competition when they lifted the UEFA Cup in 2005. They are also unbeaten against Arsenal as the two sides met in a Champions League group in 2006. The Gunners were unable to get the better of the Horses over either fixture, losing 1-0 away and drawing 0-0 at home.
Petr Cech is still suffering with a groin problem and will likely be unavailable. David Ospina would be likely to continue his run as Arsenal's cup goalkeeper despite this. Danny Welbeck picked up a slight back injury in the win against Stoke, but could be fit in time for Thursday.
Arsene Wenger has said he is unsure about whether Alexandre Lacazette is ready to start a game yet. After two months on the sidelines Lacazette still lacks a bit of cutting edge, but will be likely to feature in some capacity on Thursday.
For Moscow, Viktor Vasin is expected to be sidelined for the rest of the season after rupturing his cruciate ligament in February. Midfielder Astemir Gordyushenko has a meniscus injury and will not return until June. Mario Fernandes could just miss out as he nears a return from a hamstring problem.
Potential Arsenal Starting Lineup: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey; Ozil, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan; Welbeck
Potential CSKA Moscow Starting Lineup: Akinfeev; A. Berezutski, Ignashevich, V. Berezutski; Nababkin, Natcho, Golovin, Schennikov; Dzagoev, Wernbloom, Musa
Arsenal will know that they face a difficult trip to Russia for the second leg of this draw, so will want to try and tie up this fixture at home. However, CSKA Moscow have proven that they can perform well away from home as they did against Lyon in the last round.
The Gunners will be expected to play a full strength squad and have a lot riding on this competition. Not only are Arsenal playing for the chance of Champions League qualification and a European trophy, they are potentially playing to save to job of their manager.
Prediction Arsenal 2-0 CSKA Moscow