Nottingham Forest travel to Arsenal tomorrow, but they may be without three key first-team members.
Steve Cooper spoke at his pre-match press conference yesterday and confirmed that Felipe is out, with Moussa Niakhate and Taiwo Awoniyi likely to miss the trip to the Emirates.
‘Sensational‘ defender Felipe has been nursing a long-standing knee problem, with Niakhate returning from a dislocated elbow.
It comes as a big blow for Cooper, potentially leaving only three centre-back options in Joe Worrall, Scott McKenna and Willy Boly.
As for Awoniyi, he injured his ankle against Leeds United in a pre-season friendly and looks set to miss out again.
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We think Cooper will revert to a back five from the 4-3-3 that the Reds utilised heavily towards the back end of last season.
New signing Matt Turner will start in goal, with Serge Aurier likely to operate on the right-hand side of defence.
With only three senior central defenders available, the back three of McKenna, Worrall and Boly likely picks itself.
Ola Aina, who signed on a free from Torino, has impressed throughout pre-season and will start at left wing-back as Omar Richards isn’t yet match fit.
With the five-back formation, boss Cooper will likely opt for three men in midfield to match Arsenal’s 4-3-3.
Orel Mangala may be asked to play slightly deeper than usual, as a number six with two other central midfielders ahead of him.
Danilo started to perform toward the end of last season, with three goals in three successive games. He will likely play on the left-hand side of the narrow midfield three.
Ryan Yates has admitted he wants to play as more of a box-to-box midfielder this season, adding goals and assists to his all-round game. His workmanlike style will come in handy trying to break up the play of the Gunners who will likely control possession for the majority of the encounter.
During games away at top six sides last season, Forest would often utilise one striker with a player in the 10 position sitting behind.
Tomorrow at the Emirates could be no different.
Fresh from his England U21 glory, Morgan Gibbs-White could feature behind Brennan Johnson who may well have to play out of position due to the injury to Awoniyi.
The partnership of Gibbs-White and Johnson were directly involved in 24 out of 38 of Forest’s Premier League goals last season, with the hope they can produce the same again tomorrow and help cause a huge upset on the opening day.
Predicted Nottingham Forest XI v Arsenal: Turner; Aurier, Boly, Worrall, McKenna, Aina; Mangala, Yates, Danilo; Gibbs-White, Johnson.