Injury problems mount for Arsenal as Pepe & Bellerin in race against time to be fit for Man City clash

Both players will miss the Gunners’ Europa League outing against Standard Liege and are also doubts for a huge Premier League fixture at the weekend

Arsenal are sweating on the fitness of Nicolas Pepe and Hector Bellerin ahead of their Premier League clash against Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Bellerin was forced to miss Arsenal’s 3-1 victory at West Ham on Monday night after suffering an injury in the warm-up, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles drafted in as his replacement in the starting XI.

Pepe, meanwhile, was handed his ninth start of the 2019-20 campaign against the Hammers and got himself on the scoresheet in the second half while also providing an assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Ivory Coast international was substituted late on, and it has now emerged that he picked up a knee injury during the match which will see him sit out Arsenal’s trip to Standard Liege on Thursday.

Bellerin will also be absent for the Europa League outing, with both men set to be assessed before City arrive at the Emirates at the weekend.

Arsenal have also confirmed that Granit Xhaka will not be available for selection for either fixture after suffering a concussion against West Ham, with Kieran Tierney also a major doubt with a dislocated shoulder.

Interim boss Freddie Ljungberg will have to field a relatively strong team in Belgium, with the Gunners in need of at least a draw against Liege to book their spot in the Europa League knockout stages.

Arsenal’s latest Premier League win marked their first victory in 10 matches across all competitions, and reduced the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to seven points after 16 fixtures.

A defeat against City could spell the end for the Gunners’ chances of returning to the Champions League though, with Chelsea set to host struggling Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Win, lose or draw against the defending champions, Ljungberg will then have to prepare his side for a tough trip to Goodison Park to face Everton on December 21.

Arsenal are then due to play Bournemouth themselves at the Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day, three days before welcoming Chelsea to the Emirates for a must-win showdown.

The Gunners will complete their festive period at home to Manchester United on New Year’s Day, by which point Ljungberg’s position at the helm will have surely have become clearer one way or the other.

The Swede has been touted for the permanent manager’s job if he can oversee a turnaround in fortunes, but Arsenal are also planning to hold talks with Carlo Ancelotti over the role this week after his dismissal at Napoli.