Arsenal’s quest for success is set for a test when Atletico Madrid visit London in what is yet the biggest and most significant game of their season.
Arsenal are to host Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final first leg in London, as the Gunners’ quest for glory will be put to a stern test by Los Rojiblancos. It could be argued that Arsenal have had an easier time in the competition, but all that talk is set to change as Atletico Madrid pose the biggest challenge of Arsene Wenger’s final days at the helm.
Arsene Wenger’s impending exit has dominated much of the talk around Arsenal in the past week after 22-years, but the French manager is hoping his exit spurs on his players to beat one of Europe’s toughest teams in Atletico Madrid. On the other hand, winning the Europa League is the only way Arsenal could get into next season’s Champions League after losing the race in the league to finish in the top-four.
Arsenal players and fans will be hoping for a fitting send-off for their long-serving manager, and there would be no better way than to win the competition and add a European title to Wenger’s haul of trophies. Although, the team they will face are one tough nut to crack.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, will be hoping to repeat the success of 2012, when Diego Simeone’s side last lifted this trophy. Since that season, Atletico have twice been the losing side in Champions League finals, and it is during this period that Diego Simeone has developed his team into one of Europe’s best.
Team News & Tactics
Arsenal have a few concerns to their side coming into this game, as Arsene Wenger will be hoping to name his strongest possible team to face Atletico. Mohamed Elneny and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are confirmed absentees for the clash, while there could yet be doubts about Jack Wilshere’s involvement in the game.
Wilshere has, however, come back into training, but his recent loss of form will test Wenger’s resolve into making a decision on his involvement. Mesut Ozil is another player whose participation could be in doubt after missing recent games with a bout of flu. He too has returned to training,
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be ineligible meaning Alexandre Lacazette, and Danny Welbeck could start up front, and Petr Cech could come back in goal after David Ospina started against West Ham at the weekend.
Probable Starting-XI (4-3-3) – Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey; Ozil, Welbeck, Lacazette
Diego Simeone has received a timely boost ahead of the Arsenal game, as striker Diego Costa has returned following a hamstring injury he suffered recently. The former Chelsea striker was a big doubt for the game, but if he comes through the final training sessions, he is likely to feature against the Gunners.
Simeone, however, will be missing experienced full-backs in Juanfran and Filipe Luis as both remain out injured and will miss the semifinal. Other than them, Diego Simeone has a strong side ready to face Arsenal.
Probable Starting-XI (4-4-1) – Oblak; Vrsaljko, Godin, Savic, Hernandez; Koke, Gabi, Saul, Correa; Costa, Griezmann
- Arsenal and Atletico Madrid will meet each other for the very first time. Only six out of 87 teams have won their first game at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium
- Arsenal will appear in their eighth European semi-finals, losing only once against Manchester United in 2008,09. Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, are playing in their third Europa League semi-final, reaching the final on both occasions.
- Arsenal have scored more goals in the competition this season than any other side with 29-strikes.
- Diego Costa has scored three goals in six games against Arsenal.
- Diego Simeone will be the 125th opposition manager Arsene Wenger will face, while only ten have won their first game against the Frenchman.
Player to Watch
Though this is the first time Arsenal will face Atletico, Los Rojiblancos have a familiar foe in Mesut Ozil in the Gunners’ ranks. Ozil has had a hand in five goals in his seven starts against Atletico during his Real Madrid days and will be hoping to continue the trend, despite the many years that have passed since coming to England.
Mesut Ozil is the creative hub of this Arsenal side and will have to put in a good performance against Atletico for Arsenal to stand any chance of progressing to the Final in Lyon.
Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid
The first leg between any top sides facing for the first time could be unpredictable. While Arsenal are capable of playing some fluid attacking game, Atletico are highly known for their defensive style. Atletico, however, have a solid side that likes counter-attacking and have players who have an eye for the killer pass.
As far as the prediction goes, it would be safe to assume the game ends in a draw, but expect both sides to score at some point in the game. This prediction does not mean there’s no possibility of a winner in this clash, as football is always capable of surprising and making the impossible, possible.