Arsenal face must-win tie against Bilbao as NextGen group stage reaches climax

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When Arsenal entered the NextGen Series there was much talk about how the competition would school the players involved for participation in the Champions League proper and, for Arsenal U19s, tomorrow night’s decisive fixture at home to Athletic Bilbao will certainly provide a stern examination of their resolve under considerable pressure.

To put it simply, Terry Burton’s side must win to secure progression to the next phase of the competition, which would open up realms of possibilities, including the chance of facing the cream of Barcelona’s young talent. Burton will be the first to remind his players not to get ahead of themselves, however, as his side have failed to win or score in any of their last four games in the competition since their impressive destruction of Marseille in the opening group game.

Angha made his second first-team appearance last night against Olympiacos.
Angha made his second first-team appearance last night against Olympiacos.

True, there have been mitigating circumstances to an extent, with Hector Bellerin receiving an untimely dismissal away to Olympiacos, whilst Marseille struck a late blow in the return fixture in France. It has been slightly worrying, however, that a team containing such creative talent, including the likes of Serge Gnabry, Kristoffer Olsson, Jon Toral and Chuba Akpom, has struggled to score with any regularity.

Tomorrow, though, provides one final chance to put things right. Arsenal drew 0-0 away to Bilbao last time out, with Reice Charles-Cook making an important penalty save to keep the young Gunners in with a chance of progression. Since then, some of the players eligible for this competition have sampled the real thing, with Martin Angha, Sead Hajrovic, Elton Monteiro, Chuba Akpom and Zak Ansah having made the trip to Greece in the Champions League with the first-team this week.

Given that, of those, only Angha received any game-time, with the Swiss defender coming on for all of seven minutes, it is likely that all five will be involved in some capacity this evening, and it will be especially interesting to see who is given the nod to start up front out of Akpom and Ansah.

Gnabry, like Nico Yennaris, Kyle Ebecilio and Ignasi Miquel, remains sidelined, but Burton will still be able to call upon a side that should be capable of dispatching Bilbao and ensuring that those who are missing tonight will still have some interest in the competition when 2013 comes around.

There will also be a battle to start in goal, with Macedonian stopper Deyan Iliev having impressed since joining the club, whilst Charles-Cook has caught the eye with some spectacular saves recently, particularly in Bilbao, which could give him the edge. Bilbao, meanwhile, are a tricky, technically-blessed side who caused Arsenal a multitude of problems in the previous fixture, with the lively Ager Aqueche particularly to the fore.

If he can be suppressed, and Burton finally manages to eek a goal out of his myriad of attacking talents, then by 8.45pm tomorrow night Arsenal will more than likely be celebrating progression to the next phase of this intriguing competition.

Possible team:

Charles-Cook

Bellerin-Monteiro-Hajrovic-Angha

Hayden-Toral

Eisfeld-Olsson-Jeffrey

Akpom

subs: Iliev, Mugabo, Ormonde-Ottewill, Lipman, Jebb, Bihmoutine, Ansah.

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9 thoughts on “Arsenal face must-win tie against Bilbao as NextGen group stage reaches climax

    HirooNakamura (@HirooNakamura) said:
    December 5, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    if Arsenal win, they’ll have the same points as marseille. who get’s the nod as no1 then?

    Btw, any idea what the higher ups in Arsenal think of Burton, considering how this talented team has basically failed in the NextGen Cup? I mean, with these players and the level of opposition (especially from Marseille’s 2nd string youngsters), ARsenal really should’ve done MUCH MUCH better – especially in terms of scoring

      Jom said:
      December 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      The manager can’t do everything. Its the players that needs to show class and all that too.

      lordgunner said:
      December 6, 2012 at 12:09 am

      or maybe the other team have better youth academy,better team,
      stop hyping our young player and think we have one of the best youth academy in europe.plenty in outside arsenal are doing as much if not better that us in youth level. Specially now unlike in england lot of team in europe run out of cash they are instead investing more time in their own academy.

    Am said:
    December 6, 2012 at 12:12 am

    I thought Angha was a better CB than LB?

      Jom said:
      December 6, 2012 at 12:52 am

      Doesn’t matter. He wont make it. Decision making is pretty poor.

    allezkev said:
    December 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Jeorge, even if we beat Athletic tonight, could a win for Olypiakos over Olympique mean we finish 3rd anyway?
    What is our head-to-head with Olympique like, and does that count or is it just goal difference etc?
    Cheers…

    Jimmy said:
    December 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Do these games get televised at all?

    Barrab said:
    December 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    As the group is decided on Goal difference Arsenal will finish 2’nd (currently top) with 8 points. Bilboa will top group with a win or draw and Olympiacos will top group if they beat Bilboa. Marseille who were top before tonight eliminated.

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