Mikel Arteta says Alex Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kieran Tierney and David Luiz are all in contention for tomorrow’s Europa League semi-final first leg clash with Villarreal.
The news comes as a welcome surprise given the supposed seriousness of a few of the problems. Luiz and Tierney have been recovering from knee procedures in recent weeks while Lacazette and Aubameyang have been dealing with a hamstring problem and malaria respectively.
Martin Odegaard made his return from an ankle problem at the weekend with a cameo off the bench against Everton.
Of all the players, it sounds like Tierney is the least likely to travel to Spain this afternoon. Speaking about the Scot’s progress, Arteta said:
“He didn’t need the surgery that we were afraid of at the beginning and then he’s been working like a beast every single day. I don’t know if he’s going to make it tomorrow but he certainly wants to be as close as possible to that football pitch to give himself the best possible chance.”
On having other big players available, he added: “We do need them because we know that we have some players that are in contention and they are the ones who can make the difference in a big tie like this.”
Asked if he was taking a risk with the health of the players, he made clear: “The word risk, I don’t like to put players on the pitch if they can’t perform and they can’t feel secure that they can perform. If it’s a risk or we’re going to take a gamble, then I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”
We’ve faced Villarreal in European competition on four previous occasions, all in the Champions League.
We beat them 1-0 on aggregate to secure a place in the final in 2006 and three years later we secured a 4-1 aggregate win to make the semis. On both occasions, the away legs were drawn.