Arsene Wenger: Only 'one or two' Arsenal youngsters will start at BATE
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says only one or two of his academy prospects will start in Thursday's Europa League game at BATE Borisov, but challenged his youngsters to prove they are ready for the big stage.
Wenger left many of his regular starters at home when Arsenal travelled to Belarus on Wednesday, having played West Brom in the Premier League on Monday night.
A number of teenage prospects who have never played for the first team were on the plane, but Wenger said his plan is to field a lineup consisting mainly of first-team players.
"I said on Monday night that I would play an experienced team with a young bench -- that's what I'll do," he said. "We have a very tight schedule. It's an important game and that's why only one or two young players will start the game. We will have a very experienced team out tomorrow."
Reiss Nelson, 17, could get his first European start after playing in the Carabao Cup win over Doncaster, a game in which left-back Josh Dasilva also made his debut.
However, Wenger is expected to field a similar team to the one that beat FC Cologne at home in the first group game, with the likes of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Per Mertesacker, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Rob Holding all likely to start.
Wenger's bench will likely consist of mainly academy players, though, with Eddie Nketiah, Charlie Gilmour, Vlad Dragomir and Marcus McGuane all hoping to make their debut.
And Wenger said the youngsters must be ready for what could be a loud and hostile environment if they get a chance to play.
"It's a good test for the young players, resistance to that type of pressure. They will have their first knowledge of that tomorrow night. They have a new stadium, a good crowd of 17,000. It will be very loud," Wenger said.
"This is the kind of job were you do not get 10 opportunities to play for Arsenal. When you get one, even if they only play 20 minutes, they have to convince people that you have the quality and the courage to play and show those qualities.
"There is always an uncertainty. We know is training, you see the player has the qualities. After, to show it during the competition, is something different. It's my experience that you only discover that in competition."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.