Arsenal are sitting clear at the top of Group H and this looks like an opportunity to extend their unbeaten run in Europe, having qualified for the knockout stages last time out. Köln lost their first three games of the group stage but put in a much better performance against FC Bate Borisov, scoring five past their group rivals. With the group wide open for second place, a win for the home side is vital if they want to take the initiative in the battle to reach the next stage of the competition.
Köln may have some extra confidence heading into this game, along with their victory against Bate Borisov, their London opponents looked unimpressive in a goalless draw against Red Star Belgrade.
Arsene Wenger’s side couldn’t beat the Serbian team who have scored just twice in four games. Following the game Wenger said “We are a bit frustrated we could not score but overall I believe we lacked a bit of sharpness in the final third. We want to win the remaining two games. I believe we will have a similar squad in Cologne and at home against Bate Borisov.” A similar squad might give Köln boss Peter Stöger some extra time for his tactical preparations.
Arsenal will feel better following their win against rivals Tottenham, that win was against last year’s best Premier League defence. This Europa League fixture looks a far easier prospect, Köln have the worst goal difference in the Bundesliga and have yet to win in the German top flight.
Peter Stöger said following his side’s loss too Mainz 05, “This is not a question of quality, but our situation owed. It lacks the obvious.” They did score first against Arsenal at The Emirates, Jhon Cordoba lobbed David Ospina after just nine minutes, and if they can begin this game the same way they might be able to grab the three points.
The three goals Arsenal scored in response will make Wenger confident the away side have what it takes to respond to any possible surprises.
Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud will be key to The Gunner’s hopes of grabbing another three points, both scoring twice in the Europa League this season. Timo Horn will be vital if The Billy Goats are to take any points from Thursday’s game, the local goalkeeper is highly regarded and has recently been linked with a move to Liverpool.
He will be hoping to keep a clean sheet against the side he has followed ever since Arsenal played the German side in 2012. This game will be tough for the home side, but it will be a much closer affair than it looks on paper.
Match Prediction: Köln 1-2 Arsenal