U21's: Fulham - Arsenal - Young Gunners aim to close gap at top

The talented crop of U21's have a golden opportunity to close the gap on current league leaders Derby County with an away trip to Motspur Park in an intriguing mini-London derby on Wednesday evening.

U21's: Fulham - Arsenal - Young Gunners aim to close gap at top
Picture source: Getty Images - Arsenal youngsters celebrate a goal v Liverpool in last week's FA Youth Cup quarter-final

Following a morale-boosting victory against Liverpool last week, sealing our progression into the semi-finals of this year's FA Youth Cup, Steve Gatting's youngsters will be hoping for all three points – with a few games in hand on the sides around them in the table.

The top six in Division 2 currently looks like this:

Arsenal’s u21s have only lost two league games this term, and could close the gap on Derby to just two points with an away win v Fulham tomorrow | Image: Wikipedia
Arsenal’s u21s have only lost two league games this term, and could close the gap on Derby to just two points with an away win v Fulham tomorrow | Image: Wikipedia

All to play for

With that being taken into consideration, the Young Gunners would be eager to avoid having to qualify for next season’s Division 1 competition through a semi-final and final play-off, which means more games.

Donyell Malen scored in Arsenal's last under-21 league fixture, a 1-1 draw against Wolves. The talented Dutch wonderkid will be eager to continue his goalscoring exploits if given the chance, whilst Krystian Bielik may be started ahead of Marcus McGuane, reverting to his preferred defensive midfield position.

Donyell Malen of Arsenal takes on Conor Masterson of Liverpool during the match between Arsenal U18 and Liverpool U18 in the FA Youth Cup 6th round at Emirates Stadium on March 4, 2016 in London, England. | Credit: David Price
Donyell Malen of Arsenal takes on Conor Masterson of Liverpool during the match between Arsenal U18 and Liverpool U18 in the FA Youth Cup 6th round at Emirates Stadium on March 4, 2016 in London, England. | Credit: David Price

The opposition

Peter Grant’s side will be equally bullish about their chances of a victory, especially holding the home advantage. Having drawn 1-1 against Stoke last time out, they’ll be targeting a play-off push as the season gradually comes to a close. They boast plenty of key players who’ll look to positively influence the game: such as the midfield duo of Josh Smile and Dennis Adeniran, as well as 18-year-old forward Stevie Humphrys – who has scored three goals in his last two appearances.

Sean Longstaff (L) of Newcastle is challenged by Joshua Smile (R) of Fulham for the ball during The Barclays Under 21 Premier League match between Newcastle United and Fulham at Whitley Park on February 22, 2015, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. | Credit: Serena Taylor
Sean Longstaff (L) of Newcastle is challenged by Joshua Smile (R) of Fulham for the ball during The Barclays Under 21 Premier League match between Newcastle United and Fulham at Whitley Park on February 22, 2015, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. | Credit: Serena Taylor

Based on first-team players not involved in the matchday squad to face promotion hopefuls Burnley this evening, the likes of Emerson Hyndman and Zakaria Labyad could both feature alongside goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli – who continues to regain fitness following a knee ligament injury sustained in August.

Arsenal predicted XI: Huddart; Bola, O’Connor, Pleguezuelo, Moore; Sheaf, Bielik; Malen, Nelson, Hinds; Mavididi.

Fulham predicted XI: Bettinelli; Elworthy, Pino, Donnelly, Sheckleford; Adeniran, Smile; de la Torre, Hyndman, Labyad; Humphrys.