La Liga’s only remaining Europa League representative Atletico Madrid, will travel to London to take on Arsenal in the first leg of their semi final on Thursday night.
Emirates Stadium / 20:05 GMT / 26th April 2018
Diego Simeone’s men have been favourites for the tournament ever since they dropped down following their Champions League group stage exit but will face their toughest task yet with Arsenal looking to win a trophy in Arsene Wenger’s final year in charge.
Amazingly, this game will be the first ever competitive meeting of the two sides with their only previous meeting coming in the 2009 Emirates Cup pre-season tournament which Arsenal won 2-1.
In the last round Arsenal got past CSKA Moscow while Atleti defeated Sporting Club. Both sides won their home legs before a draw and defeat in their respective second legs saw them edge through and this will give Arsenal confidence that they could take a lead to Madrid with them.
“This is my final chance to win a major trophy at the club, it will be an anti-climax if we don’t. That’s why we want to give our absolute all to have a chance of going to the final.
“I would say one of their (Atletico Madrid) strengths is that they have no obvious weaknesses. They are a very efficient team and a team who can use every weak moment of their opponent.”
“There’s pressure because this is the best bit. These are the games that we’ve worked to be in.
“I know we’ve had to go through some problems this season. We have a very competitive squad, it’s quite short but I hope we can put in a good performance, play with the mental freedom necessary to play at a stadium where Arsenal are very strong.”
Arsenal will welcome back Petr Cech, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere from injury after the trio missed Sunday’s 4-1 win at home to West Ham.
However, Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny is expected to miss the rest of the season after damaging ankle ligaments.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to make the second leg in Madrid but will sit out the game at the Emirates while Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible.
As for Los Colchoneros, only full-backs Juanfran and Filipe Luis will miss out with Diego Simeone also welcoming back Diego Costa after the hamstring injury he sustained in the last round but he isn’t expected to start in London.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Xhaka; Ozil, Wilshere, Welbeck; Lacazette
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak; Vrsaljko, Gimenez, Godin, Lucas; Correa, Thomas, Saul, Koke; Griezmann, Gameiro
Atletico are favourites to progress over the two legs but have been off form in the last few games and the Emirates isn’t an easy place to go. Expect them to lose but get that all important away goal and finish the job next week, Arsenal 2-1 Atletico Madrid