At-risk Emery looking for Europa League salvation with Arsenal
Unai Emery has the chance to relieve some of the pressure surrounding his position at Arsenal on Thursday by securing qualification for the knockout rounds of the Europa League with a match to spare.
Speculation over Emery’s job has ramped up after his Gunners side were booed off at the end of their 2-2 draw with lowly Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, gained only thanks to a 96th-minute leveller from Alexandre Lacazette.
However, he can remove some of the gloom hovering over North London by booking their place in the last 32 with a win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Group F leaders Arsenal are four points ahead of both third-placed Eintracht and Standard Liege with two matches remaining, and will also qualify if Standard don’t win at bottom side Vitoria Guimaraes.
Emery was publicly backed by the Arsenal hierarchy at the start of the international break but the pressure has continued to grow following a run of just two wins in their last 11 Premier League games, with bookmakers in the United Kingdom placing him among the favourites to be the next manager ousted.
The Spaniard said he was “disappointed and frustrated” after the draw, which denied the Saints a first win at Arsenal since 1997.
“I understand the supporters, we didn’t deserve any more today, we lost a big opportunity to connect with our supporters,” he said.
“We had the chance to take confidence from today but we didn’t do that.”
They face an Eintracht side that has lost their last three in all competitions and come into Thursday’s clash in London having lost at home to Wolfsburg despite their opponents having to play the entire second half with 10 men.
However they will have their captain David Abraham available for a match that could be crucial to the European hopes of last season’s semi-finalists after he was banned until 2020 in the Bundesliga for barging over Freiburg coach Christian Streich earlier this month.
Seen as potential candidates to challenge for the trophy at the start of the season, Serie A rivals Roma and Lazio are both fighting for survival in the competition, with Roma out if they lose at Group J leaders Istanbul Basaksehir and Borussia Moenchengladbach win at Austrian outfit Wolfsberg.
That would also send Bundesliga leaders Moenchengladbach through to the last 32.
Lazio, who are third in Group E, must beat CFR Cluj at the Stadio Olimpico to have any hope of staying in the competition, as they are six points behind the Romanians after suffering two late defeats by group leaders Celtic in their previous two matches.
Celtic have already qualified thanks to those two wins over Lazio and they will be joined by local rivals Rangers if they win at Group G’s bottom side Feyenoord and Porto don’t beat leaders Young Boys.
Steven Gerrard’s side is second, level on seven points with Young Boys in a tight group that has all four sides separated by three points.
Wolves are also on the brink of the knockouts in their first European adventure for nearly four decades.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side needs a draw at Group K leaders Braga to guarantee passage to the last 32 — although they will also go through if third-placed Slovan Bratislava fails to beat Besiktas — and go into the match having lost just once since falling 1-0 to Braga in mid-September.
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