Arsenal face nightmare travel schedule due to Europa League, Premier League commitments
Arsenal face a nightmare schedule this week because of the Europa League, with the Gunners set to return from Azerbaijan early Friday morning ahead of a noon Premier League kickoff on Sunday.
Arsenal face Qarabag in Baku on Thursday evening and then face a six-hour flight back to London, with their plane not expected to land back at Luton Airport until around 4 a.m. BST on Friday, club officials told ESPN FC.
That will mean an extremely short turnaround ahead of their away match at Fulham on Sunday, which kicks off at midday.
The tight schedule could force coach Unai Emery to rotate his squad more heavily than in their opening Europa League game against FC Vorskla, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started and Mesut Ozil came off the bench.
However, Emery's options are also limited by the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who will stay at home due to security concerns stemming from the conflict between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia.
Arsenal fly out on Wednesday morning and will hold their final pregame training session at Baku's Olympic Stadium that evening. That is a departure from Arsene Wenger's normal routine, which saw Arsenal train at home in London Colney on the day before most European games in recent years.
However, a club source said it was unclear whether Emery will stick to that routine for every Europa League away game or if the decision was partly based on the travel situation.
Emery, who won the Europa League three times at Sevilla, has made it clear that the competition is a big priority for Arsenal this season as they try to secure a return to next season's Champions League.
Qarabag are seen as the weakest team in the group, meaning Emery could be tempted to gamble by leaving many of his top stars at home.
He is also helped by the return of left-back Sead Kolasinac, who has been back in full training after overcoming a knee injury suffered before the start of the season and could give Nacho Monreal a much-needed rest.
Academy duo Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah are both expected to be part of the squad again as well, having sat out Monday's under-23 game.
Arsenal are looking to extend a seven-game winning streak in all competitions, which includes a 4-2 victory over FC Vorskla in their opening group-stage match.