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Arsenal eager to claim top billing in Europa League

Arsenal have already booked their place in the Europa League knockout stage, but they’ll be eager to secure top spot in Group H with a victory in Cologne on Thursday.

The Gunners have picked up 10 points from their four games so far, including a 3-1 victory over the German side back in September.

Forwards Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud could miss the match, although Arsene Wenger may use the game to give the returning Danny Welbeck some game time.

Welbeck is 8/5 to score at any time against Cologne and that could be worth an interest with doubts over Welbeck and Giroud’s participation.

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Cologne, who are bottom of the Bundesliga after a 1-0 defeat at Mainz on Sunday, will be without vice-captain Jonas Hector due to a knee injury.

The Gunners are currently 6/1 favourites at to win the Europa League, although those odds could change when the sides knocked out of the Champions League join the competition.

Arsenal beat Cologne side 3-1 on a tempestuous night at the Emirates Stadium back in September and are available at 18/1 to match that scoreline on Thursday.

The Premier League’s other representatives have nothing to play for but pride after a dismal qualifying campaign, but Everton will fancy their chances of picking up a victory against Atalanta this week.

The Toffees lost 3-0 in Italy, but can be backed at 21/10 to gain their revenge against a side who haven’t won any of their last four games in all competitions.

Everton have shown a bit of improvement under caretaker manager David Unsworth and a win on Thursday might tempt the board into giving him the job until the end of the season.

While the fate of the Premier League pair is known, little else has been decided in the Europa League heading into the fifth round of group matches.

Elsewhere in the Europa League

Steaua Bucharest, Dynamo Kiev, Lazio and Zenit St Petersburg have joined Arsenal in the last 32, but there’s plenty of big clubs still aiming to confirm their progression.

Italian giants AC Milan host Austria Vienna on Thursday knowing that a victory would send them through. The Serie A side won 5-1 in Austria earlier in the group stage and are priced at 2/7 to record another win.

Villarreal can also progress if they beat Astana in Kazakhstan. The Spanish side recorded a 3-1 victory at home and are fancied at 11/8 to follow up this week.

Marseille travel to Turkey to face Konyaspor and are second in their group behind Red Bull Salzburg, but only two points ahead of Thursday’s opponents and Vitoria SC.

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A draw would probably suit Marseille, especially with a home game against Salzburg still to come, and that looks tempting at odds of 12/5.

Group J is undoubtedly the most difficult to predict, with just three points separating the four sides.

Swedish minnows Ostersund will qualify if they beat Zorya Luhansk, but both Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin are still in with a chance of going through.

Group F is also tight, with FC Copenhagen, FC Sheriff and Lokomotiv Moscow battling for the two qualifying spots. Sheriff will progress if they beat FC Zlin and Lokomotiv fail to beat Sheriff.

Ludogorets look likely to qualify from Group C, with Braga and Hoffenheim battling it out for the other spot.

Three points for the German side against Braga on Thursday would keep their hopes of qualification alive and they can be backed at 6/5 to record a vital victory.

Other notable teams likely to secure qualification to the round of 32 include Partizan Belgrade, Lyon, Atalanta, Viktoria Plzen and Real Sociedad

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