Vitoria SC v Arsenal is go!
1 min: Rob Holding wins the coin-toss, completely justifying his manager’s decision to make him captain for the evening. In your face Emery-haterz!!! On a seriously sodden afternoon in Guimaraes, the home side get the ball rolling.
Not long now: There appears to be a reasonably decent crowd in the stadium, considering the game is being played on a school-day, due in no small and ironical part to the fact that Vitoria have given away loads of tickets to local schoolchildren. With what look suspiciously like strobe lights flashing in the tunnel, the teams make their way out on to the pitch. It is lashing with rain in northern Portugal.
Unai Emery speaks: The Arsenal manager is asked about his decision to make Rob Holding captain tonight and sounds a mite tetchy when he replies. “Today it is Rob Holding and he is perfect,” he says. When asked “why?” by BT Sport’s reporter he says: “Because he is.” Further questions about his team selection prompt similarly brief answers. I suspect he’s not in a very good mood.
Edwards? The chap named Edwards in the Vitoria SC line-up is an attacking midfielder named Marcus, who signed a four-year deal with the Portuguese club last summer after leaving Tottenham Hotspur. The 20-year-old had a stint on loan at Dutch club Excelsior last season, making 25 appearances. Before that, he had a spell at N|orwich City, but only made one Championship appearance under Daniel Farke.
Edwards has represented England at U16, U17, U18, U19 and U20 levels and was part of the side that won the European U19 Championship in 2017.
Vitoria v Arsenal line-ups
Vitoria Guimaraes: Douglas Jesus, Garcia, Frederico Venancio, Tapsoba, Rafa Soares, Pepe, Agu, Evangelista, Edwards, Duarte, Davidson.
Subs: Leo Bonatini, Rochinha, Al Musrati, Andre Pereira, Poha, Hanin, Miguel Silva.
Arsenal: Martinez, Mustafi, Papastathopoulos, Holding, Tierney, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Pepe, Martinelli, Saka.
Subs: Leno, Bellerin, Lacazette, Torreira, Nelson, Guendouzi, Kolasinac.
Referee: Halis Ozkahya (Turkey)
Kick-off: 3.50pm (GMT)
Early team news: Arsenal manager Unai Emery has adopted something of a free-form jazz approach to today’s team selection and has made no fewer than eight changes to the side that drew with Wolves at the Emirates over the weekend. Defenders Sokratis and Kieran Tierney keep their places, as does midfielder Dani Ceballos.
Rob Holding skippers the side in the absence from the starting line-up of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil – Arsenal’s group of “captains” . Granit Xhaka has been stripped of the armband following his outburst after being substituted during Arsenal’s match against Crystal Palace and is not in tonight’s squad.
Arsenal? Playing in Europe on a Wednesday?
Surely some mistake? Well, in a word: no. While the Europa League has traditionally been a Thursday night staple, this match is being played this afternoon because Portuguese side Braga are also playing in the competition and are slated to entertain Besiktas tomorrow.
With the two towns just 25 kilometres apart, Uefa decided to switch Vitoria’s game to Wednesday, in a bid to avoid traffic congestion and lighten the load on Portuguese police. The reason for the early kick-off is that Europa League matches can’t clash with this evening’s Champions League fixtures for broadcasting reasons. So, now you know.
Europa League Group F: Vitoria v Arsenal
The Estádio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes is the venue for this Europa League clash between Vitoria and Arsenal. Unai Emery’s side are top of the group with maximum points from their three games, while their hosts have yet to get a point on the board after losing their opening three fixtures.
A win today will guarantee Arsenal qualification for the knockout stages, but having twice fallen behind to tonight’s opponents before going on to win at the Emirates in their last game, they may not have things all their own way this afternoon. Kick-off is at the decidedly odd time of 3.50pm (GMT) (more of which anon) but stay tuned for team news and build-up in the meantime.