Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is not afraid of Slavia Prague’s impressive home record as both sides prepare to face each other in the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal clash.
The Czech outfit have been very impressive in the competition and have already knocked out British opposition in Rangers and Leicester City, as both clubs fell at the Sinobo Stadium.
Slavia Prague are yet to lose at home in all competitions for almost 18 months. It was Chelsea that beat them last at home in April 2019 at the same stage of the competition.
They have an advantage having drawn 1 all against Arsenal at the Emirates in the first leg and this puts all the pressure on the Gunners as this competition is their only realistic means of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season.
“We know it is going to be very difficult and they have been doing extremely well,” Arteta said.
“At home, they are really strong but we have been strong away as well.
“I don’t want to focus too much on them, I want to focus on what we do and the task ahead of us. We have to do our things well to have the best possible chance to go through.”
The Gunners had to wait late to open the scoring against their visitors in the first leg via a Nicolas Pepe goal in the 86th minute. However, they failed to hold on as Tomas Holes scored an equalizer in stoppage time.
The Spaniard was disappointed with the result but saw his side bounce back against Sheffield United in the Premier League with a 3 nil win away from home. Well, Sheffield have been the worst side in the Premier League this season and the game at the Sinobo Stadium would be fiercer and more competitive.
Regardless, Arteta is confident that his side can hold on to a narrow lead in this season-defining fixture if the need arises.
He added: “The thing we have to do different is to manage those situations better to avoid them having the possibility to do it. It can happen again, it happens to every team in the world in football.
“It is about why it happens and trying to explain if we do that, then the chances of happening are bigger and if we don’t do that, the chances of it happening are much less.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal will have to do it the hard way as they will be without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard, as they missed the win at Sheffield and played no part in Wednesday’s training.
Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are in contention for a place in the game while Kieran Tierney and David Luiz are out. Xhaka deputized at left-back in Tierney’s absence and could play the same role against Slavia Prague.
Arsenal have been poor in defense and the clean sheet against Sheffield United was their first since the end of January.
“It is not ideal,” Arteta admitted. “If you ask me, not only with the two centre-backs but the back line, it is to have a consistent back line to bring some stability. It has not been the case because of different reasons.
“Because of injury, form and sometimes we have to rotate with the amount of games we are playing every three days. Players cannot sustain that level and that consistency is needed and for me it is really important to find a solution.”
The Gunners shouldn’t lack motivation for this game as it can pass for their biggest game of the season thus far. They’d want to make it to Europe next season and also win silverware as they did with the FA Cup triumph last season.