1. FC Köln entertain Arsenal at the RheinEnergieStadion on Thursday night in the Europa League with the Bundesliga club looking for their second successive win in Europe. The corresponding fixture made the headlines for perhaps the wrong reasons, but it was personal accounts that made the opening group game clash interesting, with most Arsenal fans praising Köln supporters for creating an atmosphere.
And although Köln are still sitting bottom of Group H, Peter Stöger’s side can still mathematically qualify for the knockout stages, should the BATE Borisov vs Red Star Belgrade result go their way.
Since their return to the Bundesliga in 2014, Köln have bettered their previous league finish each season but upon returning to Europe for the first time in 25 years, the Billy Goats find themselves rooted to 18th place.
The departure of Anthony Modeste to Tianjin Quanjia has hit them hard: the Frenchman scored 25 of Köln’s 51 Bundesliga goals last campaign, while Yuya Osako & Co. have scored just four goals in 12 league games.
Stöger and then sporting director Jörg Schmadtke brought in 1. FSV Mainz 05 forward Jhon Córdoba for a club record fee but ultimately, the Colombian hasn’t lived up to expectations, while an injury hasn’t helped his quest for his first league goal – his only Köln goals coming in the 3-1 defeat at Arsenal in September and the DFB Pokal win.
For Arsenal, they come into this fixture on the back of an outstanding 2-0 win in the north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, with Mesut Özil rightfully deserving the plaudits. The Premier League club have already qualified for the knockout stages, while they will guarantee top spot with a win against Köln.
1. FC Köln were dealt two huge blows in midweek with news that both Dominique Heintz and Simon Zoller will be out until January, while long-term absentee Jonas Hector isn’t expected back until December.
First team players Marco Höger, Christian Clemens and Marcel Risse are all expected to miss the Arsenal game while Leonardo Bittencourt picked up a niggle following their defeat against Mainz.
Arsenal are expected to be without Theo Walcott once again while Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and David Ospina are all expected to feature in the matchday squad. As has been the case in the Europa League, Arsene Wenger is expected to give his younger players some minutes on the pitch.
Yuya Osako (1. FC Köln) – It’s difficult to pinpoint a key player for Köln given they’re sitting bottom of the Bundesliga and their current injury crisis. However, Japan international Yuya Osako tends to be at the centre of everything creative that comes out of Köln while his partnership and understanding with Modeste last season was one of the best in Germany: fans will be hoping he can strike one with Córdoba sooner rather than later.
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) – On the bench against Tottenham Hotspur, England international Jack Wilshere could well feature against Köln. Upon returning from various injuries and a loan spell at Bournemouth, the dynamic midfielder has really pushed on in his Arsenal career, featuring in each of their Europa League games this campaign.
While their league form is dismal, Köln recorded their first win in Europe for 25 years with a 5-2 win against BATE Borisov three weeks ago. The performance that night was the best we’ve seen this season while Stöger & Co. will be looking to replicate that against Arsenal. But for all their youth on show, Arsenal still come into this team the stronger team however, we’ve seen them drop points at home against Red Star Belgrade, while both teams will want nothing less than a win. Expect goals in this fixture.
Result: 1. FC Köln 2-3 Arsenal