Qarabag v Arsenal

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Pictures: The boys board the plane to Baku

Pictures: The boys board the plane to Baku

We're on our way to Azerbaijan!

The first-team squad boarded a plane to Baku on Wednesday morning, ahead of Thursday's Europa League clash with Qarabag.

Our club photographer was there to capture these images:

Pre-Match Report

Qarabag v Arsenal: The Brief

We’ll hope that the venue for our first Europa League away game this season is the same as our last.

Unai Emery's men have made their longest-ever journey for continental competition, to the capital of Azerbaijan, to take on Qarabag in the stadium that will host the final next May.

Our head coach knows exactly what it takes to win this competition, having done so three years on the trot with Sevilla, and he's certainly not underestimating the Azerbaijan champions, naming a near-full strength squad for the 4,000-km trip to the Caspian Coast.

Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan haven't travelled from those players available, as we look to consolidate our position at the top of the group following our 4-2 win over FC Vorskla a fortnight ago.

Qarabag lost their opening group game 2-0 in Lisbon, and have never beaten Premier League opposition – they went down 4-0 at home to Chelsea in last season's Champions League – but that's not to say they aren't capable of producing impressive results.

Drawn in the same group as Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last term, 'The Horsemen' managed home and away draws against the Spanish giants, forcing them into third place. That dropped Atletico into the Europa League, where they beat us in the semi-final before lifting the trophy.

Emery has already reiterated his determination to emulate Atletico's achievement this season, the first priority though is winning Group E.

Read on for a comprehensive match preview, Emery's thoughts on the game, the latest team news, stats, and analysis of the opposition.

The Breakdown - Qarabag FK
Emery quote - Qarabag FK
Team News - Qarabag FK
Opposition view - Qarabag FK
AN Live - Qarabag FK

Gallery

Arsenal train in Baku ahead of Qarabag game

Arsenal train in Baku

We continue our Europa League campaign in Baku against Qarabag on Thursday evening.

Ahead of the match, we trained at the Olympic Stadium - and our club photographers have sent over these pictures.

Press conference

Who's not travelled for our game against Qarabag?

Unai Emery

Unai Emery has confirmed that Henrik Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey have not travelled to Baku.

Our head coach, speaking to the media in Azerbaijan ahead of our Europa League group-stage game against Qarabag, said this:

on the players who did not travel…
I explained first, for Mkhitaryan, why he cannot play tomorrow. Monday and Tuesday, Aubameyang was sick and he cannot travel to play tomorrow. Aaron Ramsey asked me if he can stay in London because his wife is pregnant and they are waiting on the doctors.

on Henrikh Mkhitaryan not travelling and the Qarabag manager’s comments…
He cannot travel here. We are here, the players with the best mentality and preparation and possibility to play tomorrow.

on whether Mkhitaryan could play in the final, which is also in Baku…
It’s a long time for us to arrive at the final. We are thinking only of the performance tomorrow. We are working to prepare for the next matches. Tomorrow is the Europa League, for us, a very big competition. I am here, playing in Europe and the respect is very big from me. We are here, every person here, is thinking about and enjoying the match tomorrow.

on if Unai knows why there is conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia…
My work is football. I respect each person, I respect each people, I respect each culture, I respect each country. But I don’t know each situation in every country. For me, he cannot play tomorrow. There is respect for Micki and respect for you. Today we are here with the opportunity to play well.

Press conference

'There's no pressure on me... I'm enjoying it'

Alex Iwobi speaks to the media ahead of our away game at Qarabag

Alex Iwobi continued his fine form this season with a game-changing appearance off the bench in Saturday's 2-0 win against Watford.

The Nigeria international is expected to start our game away at Qarabag, and he told the media in Baku exactly why he is playing so well at the moment.

This is what he said:

on why he is playing with more freedom this season…
This season I’ve been working a lot more on trying to improve my finishing and also assisting my team-mates which is what I believe someone in my position should do to get to the next level. I’ve been focusing on that and also in training I feel like my team-mates have been giving me the freedom to express myself, as well as the new boss. There’s no pressure or weight on my shoulders. I’m just enjoying my football. The team is enjoying the new style and the new things we’ve brought into training so it’s not just me that’s enjoying playing with freedom, I’d like to say it’s not just me playing with freedom, it’s my team-mates as well.

on whether we’re taking the Europa League seriously…
Even last year I would like to believe that [we took it seriously], for any competition we participate in, we would take it seriously. However, we’ve had Emile Smith Rowe playing his part in this competition as well, so we still have a lot of players getting involved. We are taking this competition very seriously, as well as every other competition. We’d like to do well in it and go far.

on training in the stadium…
It’s good for us to train on the pitch as well so we can get familiar and get used to the pitch. We’ve started doing it recently this season so it will help us adjust to that in our training session. It will be great for us to train on the pitch today and get used to it so that we can prepare for the match.

Press conference

Emery - Two big reasons we will respect Qarabag

Unai Emery

We may have been installed as heavy favourites to beat Qarabag in Baku on Thursday, but Unai Emery is sure the hosts will provide a stern test.

Our head coach has studied our opponents in detail and believes they have the ability to cause us problems if we underestimate them.

This is what he told the media on Wednesday:

on the travel and how seriously we are taking the game…
It’s very important for us in this competition. We are giving each competition our best preparation, our best performance and the travel is long, but it’s not an excuse.

on whether Bernd Leno or Emi Martinez will play…
The best idea is to think only of the match tomorrow and with the respect for this competition because we want, at the end, to finish first in the group. We want to win tomorrow with the best players for playing. We are very happy with Leno and I want to then give him confidence to continue playing. Emi Martinez also can play. [On Thursday] we will tell the players the first XI but today I want every player thinking that they will play tomorrow to help us to win this match.

on whether he would be surprised if Qarabag get something from the game...
With Qarabag, we have a lot of respect for them. They started with a good performance against Sporting Lisbon in Lisbon in the first match. They lost 2-0 but they gave a very good performance against them, with good players and also with good spirit and good tactical intentions in the game. I remember also, last year here, Atletico Madrid there were two matches against them. They could not win. It’s for me, two very good examples for us to have the respect for them. Also we have the confidence in our players to do the best performance tomorrow and also with our work, we can have a great match with a good performance for thinking only to win and to do one good match.

on the Fulham game on Sunday and whether he has had conversation with the Premier League about the schedule…
I had a very different experience, when you play Wednesday or Thursday and then Saturday or Sunday. There are very few days to recover physically and also the mentality of the players to play again in a few hours another match. In this experience, I won, I lost and I played better in the second match. We are one team with every player with this experience and also with the habit to play, to recover for another match and continue playing. It’s the reason, for me, that I prefer more time to have to recover physically for the players. But for me, it’s good and we are okay tomorrow with every player to play. We are going to be also perfect to play against Fulham on Sunday.

Team news

Team news: Cech, Smith Rowe, Koscielny

Petr Cech

Ahead of Unai Emery’s media conference in Baku on Wednesday, here's the latest team news update from our medical team:

 
Emile Smith Rowe
Now available for selection following right hip issue during Brentford match last Wednesday.
 
Petr Cech
Left hamstring injury. Expected to return to full training in 3-4 weeks.
  
Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Small fracture to left fibula. Progressing well and now expected to return to full training in early October (initially aiming to return to training in November).
 
Dinos Mavropanos
Groin injury. Expected to return to full training by the end of October.
 
Laurent Koscielny
Right Achilles tendon repair. Now working outside. Aiming to return to full training in November.