Thursday Lunchtime Sports Update

SOCCER

Laurent Koscielny is set to make his Arsenal return in tonight’s Europa League match against Qarabag of Azerbaijan at the Emirates Stadium,

The Gunners captain has yet to play under new manager Unai Emery.

The 33 year old defender ruptured his Achilles tendon in May, and missed France’s World Cup triumph during the summer.

Arsenal are already guaranteed top spot in group E, but they are suffering from an injury crisis in defence.

Emery hopes Koscielny will play a big role in the match.

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has confirmed he will play a weakened team against Vidi in Hungary this evening.

The Blues have already won Group L, with five wins from five.

Celtic and Rangers must battle to make the last 32.

Brendan Rodgers’ side know they will qualify if they avoid defeat to Salzburg at Parkhead.

Rangers must win at Rapid Vienna to progress. 

RUGBY

Ulster have named an unchanged team for tomorrow’s Champions Cup game against Scarlets in Belfast.

Coach Dan McFarland has also been able to name an unchanged bench.

Captain Rory Best retains his place at Hooker, so will overtake Andrew Trimble as the Northern Province’s most capped player in European competition.

Ulster kept their hopes of reaching the quarter finals alive with a narrow win over the same side in Wales last weekend.

Ireland flanker Jordi Murphy says they are determined to build on last week’s result.


Paddy Jackson will face Connacht in the Challenge Cup tomorrow.

The former Ulster out-half has been recalled to the Perpignan team for the Pool 3 match in France.

Jackson has scored 89 points in 11 appearances since joining the French club during the summer, but he missed their defeat in Galway last week.

Connacht have named a team that sees six changes.

They are without Bundee Aki, Quinn Roux and Finlay Bealham, while academy player Conor Fitzgerald has been handed the number 10 shirt. 

GOLF

The Irish are struggling at the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Neil O’Briain is 1 over playing the 7th hole.

Gavin Moynihan is three over par through 5.

New Zealand’s Dimitrios Papadatos is the early leader on 5 under.


SWIMMING

Shane Ryan has set a new Irish record to reach the final of the 50 metres backstroke at the World Swimming Championship in China.

The European bronze medal finished third in his semi-final in a time 22.96 second. 

RACING

Laurina, favourite for Saturday’s Grade 2 Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham, is likely to sidestep the race because of unsuitable ground conditions, according to her trainer Willie Mullins.

Laurina was unbeaten in four starts over hurdles last season, when she landed the Grade 2 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival by 18 lengths.

She also won the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms Mares Novice Hurdle at the Fairyhouse Easter festival. Laurina remains a general 5-1 chance for the Unibet Champion Hurdle in March.