Slavia Prague manager Jindrich Trpisovsky tried his best to shift the focus back onto their Euorpa League clash with Arsenal amid probing questions about Ondrej Kudela.
The Czech Republic international, 34, was alleged to have racially abused Rangers’ Glen Kamara during their Europa League Round of 16 tie. While the investigation remains ongoing, Kudela has been handed a provisional one-match ban.
That suspension rules him out of Thursday’s match with Arsenal, but a far lengthier suspension could arise if he is ultimately found guilty.
Police Scotland are also investigating the incident, and Slavia’s return to the UK has again put the spotlight on Kudela.
However, Slavia coach Trpisovsky did all he could to shift the focus back on to Arsenal after insisting Kudela would not have played even if he weren’t banned.
“He is not here,” Trpisovsky said on the eve of the match.
“He’s got some health issues, he couldn’t come. He has fevers and is taking antibiotics.
“That is from what happened in the national game and right now I am just concentrating on the match, on the sports side.
“I really don’t have an answer, he’s not here, he is not going to play, he wouldn’t have played anyway.
“It is not only him who we are missing – we are missing three other centre-backs.
“We really have to look at the team we have.
“We will show on the pitch and of course coming to a stadium like this, such a big club, it is a big step for us and we have some players who are new, it is their first season and it is a great experience for them as well.”
Arsenal eyeing Sporting’s ‘next Bruno Fernandes’
Meanwhile, Arsenal are reported to have made contact with Sporting Lisbon over a deal to sign talented playmaker Pedro Goncalves.
The 22-year-old has earned rave reviews in Portugal this season, having filled the void vacated by Bruno Fernandes. Having arrived from Famalicao over the summer, Goncalves has 15 goals and five assists to his name. His form has taken him to the fringes of the Portuguese national side.
Indeed, his performances have already led to speculation linking him with a move away. Having drawn comparisons with Fernandes, Goncalves has been mentioned as a possible target for Manchester United.
According to A Bola, the Gunners have been studying Goncalves closely over recent months. Now the Portuguese outlet claims Arsenal have put a firm offer on the table to test their resolve.
Although the amount Arsenal are reported to have bid has not been disclosed, it seems signing the 22-year-old won’t be easy. Contracted to Sporting until summer 2025, Goncalves has a €60m release clause in his deal.
Furthermore, Arsenal are likely to only pursue the Portuguese star if their pursuit for Martin Odegaard ends in failure. The Norwegian has impressed since arriving on loan and the Gunners hope to sign him permanently.