Arsenal hit by five-hour travel delay before Lens tie with press conference cancelled

Arsenal hit by five-hour travel delay before Lens tie with press conference cancelled

Arsenal's preparations for Tuesday's Champions League fixture against RC Lens were thrown into chaos after the squad were stranded for hours at Luton Airport on the eve of the game.

The travelling party was due to depart for Lille, just north of Lens, at 4.15pm UK time on Monday but three hours later they were still waiting to depart the private terminal at Luton, with the club saying bad weather was responsible for the delay.

The pre-match press conference with head coach Mikel Arteta and defender William Saliba, due to start at 6pm UK time at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, was cancelled, with the pair instead speaking to reporters over the phone.

Arsenal had planned to train at 11am before arriving at the private terminal at 3.45pm, although they did not begin Monday morning's session until shortly before midday.

The delay eventually lasted a total of five hours before the team safely landed in France at 10:40pm local time on Monday evening.

Double boost: Mikel Arteta should have Bukayo Saka and Thomas Partey to face Lens (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Thomas Partey was involved in the training run-out and has been included in the travelling squad in a major boost to Arteta ahead of Sunday's crunch game against title rivals Manchester City.

Partey has not played since facing Fulham on August 26 due to a groin strain, but Arteta said: "He’s progressed really well in the last two weeks and he managed to train in the last two or three days with the team and that’s great news for us obviously.

"I think his progression in the last week has been very good. He might have some exposure tomorrow depending how the game goes.

"He’s a big player and we know what he brings to the team. He knows exactly what we need and with the injuries we had to other players in midfield and at the back he complements us in a great way and gives us options. So it’s great to have him back again."

Bukayo Saka has also travelled, despite being forced off with a knock for the second League game running against Bournemouth on Saturday, along with fringe players Cedric Soares and Karl Hein.

"He’s fine, he’s much better. It was a big knock but he has recovered well and trained with us today," Arteta said of Saka, adding that he would pick his team to face Lens on Tuesday.

Arteta believes last season's Ligue 1 runners-up cannot be underestimated, despite lying 16th this term after four defeats from their first seven games.

"I’ve been really impressed [with them]," he said. "What they did last year is incredible to be within a point of the title. The way they did it, the form they had at home. This season they’ve been really unlucky with some of the results they’ve had.

"At home they’ve got just one point and I don’t know how. So we expect a huge battle tomorrow. We’re more than aware of it. We showed the players everything and we have a huge test tomorrow."

Gabriel Martinelli (hamstring) and Jurrien Timber (ACL) remain on the sidelines for Arsenal.