MATCHDAY: AC Milan looks to extend unbeaten run
A look at what’s happening in the Europa League on Thursday:
AC MILAN VS. LILLE
Unbeaten since Italian soccer resumed in June and atop the Serie A standings through six rounds, AC Milan looks to extend its perfect record in the Europa League against Lille at the San Siro.
“Our strength has always been balance. We know how to carry ourselves and that this requires sacrifice,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “We’re aware of what we’re doing and there are no reasons for a drop in attention -- because we haven’t won anything yet.”
Like in the wins over Celtic and Sparta Prague, Pioli will draw from his bench, which could mean that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be left out of the lineup.
“We need fresh mental and physical energy,” Pioli said.
Milan leads Group H, two points ahead of Lille.
“It’s not going to be the decisive match in terms of advancing,” Pioli added.
Having sat out last season’s Europa League to avoid UEFA’s financial fair play microscope, Milan needs to go as far as possible in the competition to improve its budget.
Lille forward Timothy Weah will be playing his first match in the stadium where his father, George Weah, once starred for Milan.
ARSENAL VS. MOLDE
David Luiz will return to Arsenal's squad after missing the last two matches, including the victory against Dundalk in the Europa League, because of a thigh injury. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta initially feared that Luiz would be out for “a few weeks” but the 33-year-old Luiz has resumed training. Arsenal has also beaten Rapid Vienna in Group B but Arteta believes Molde, which is also on six points after two games, will be the toughest test yet. “Their strengths are that they work really well as a team and they are strong physically and well organized and defensively hard to break down," Arteta said, “with some creative attacking players who are dangerous in the final third. They are dangerous at set pieces as well.”
REAL SOCIEDAD VS. AZ ALKMAAR
Real Sociedad may be able to call on right back Aritz Elustondo after he missed the 1-0 loss to Napoli last week because of a muscle injury. He also didn’t play against Celta Vigo at the weekend in the Spanish league, which Sociedad leads after eight matches. The Spanish club has won five of its last six matches in all competitions, with the only setback coming against Napoli.
LUDOGORETS VS. TOTTENHAM
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho says Harry Kane will be part of a “full power” team for a game that takes on extra significance following the English side's 1-0 loss against Royal Antwerp last week. Mourinho has fielded lineups filled with fringe players for the opening two Group J games, but Tottenham now finds itself tied on three points with third-place LASK and three behind Antwerp. Mourinho came out fighting in his news conference ahead of the Ludogorets game, launching an impassioned defence of Kane over criticism in the media for the way the striker won a penalty in Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Brighton in the Premier League on Sunday. Mourinho also said players from rival clubs deserved more scrutiny. “What are you speaking about us?” he said. “Speak about Liverpool, speak about Man City, speak about Man United. Speak about these penalties that you see the clever guy that comes (near) somebody and blows, they are on the floor. Don’t speak about Harry Kane.” Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Serge Aurier will be missing for Spurs.
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