Arsenal’s NextGen side will face Athletic Bilbao tonight in a must win final fixture in their NextGen Group 6. The game at Underhill, which kicks off tonight at 19.00 GMT will be their last in the competition if they lose to Bilbao while a draw would see them relying heavily on other teams in order to advance as a best third placed team.
Arsenal started their campaign so well but it has since gone awry. After comfortably defeating Marseille 3-0 in their opening fixture they have not won a game since; worse still they have not scored a goal in their next four fixtures.
The last time the two met was at San Mames in Bilbao where they played out a 0-0 draw but Bilbao smashed home five goals in a trouncing of Marseille last week and the Gunners will need to be wary of The Young Lions putting in a similar performance this week.
Arsenal are also likely to be without Nico Yennaris who is still recovering from injury and Serge Gnabry is also doubtful with a knock. Several of the NextGen stalwarts such as Martin Angha, Chuba Akpom, Zak Ansah, Sead Hajrovic and Elton Monteiro featured in the senior team match in Greece earlier in the week and while some did not play at all their participation remains a slight doubt.
Some good news that comes from that fixture relates to Thomas Eisfeld. The highly rated German youngster’s ineligibility for the Champions League means he should be available for the NextGen side tonight.
On the plus side if Arsenal win the match they will be through to the next round regardless of other results so in that respect the tie is in their own hands.
‘’You play against the best players of your age and it will be a very interesting experience for us. It's also a good way to assess your players and to give you an idea of the future potential of the club"
Arsenal striker Nigel Neita is also hoping to progress and admits that despite making life hard for themselves they are more than capable at this level of football:
“Everyone is up for it: it is our last game in the group and we have nothing to lose. We just have to go for it and I know that we’re all raring to go. I’m sure it will be a good game, and the fact it is at home will be a real boost for us. Hopefully there will be lots of fans at Barnet, and I really think we will do enough to go through.’’
Can Arsenal make it through to the quarter finals against a stylish Athletic Bilbao side?