Atletico, Arsenal try to save their seasons in Europa League
MADRID (AP) — Atletico Madrid and Arsenal are both out to save their seasons.
Arsenal is looking to qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League, while Atletico is looking to get something from a season that promised so much but has so far delivered little.
The teams play in the second leg of the Europa League semifinals on Thursday. They drew 1-1 in England last week, when Antoine Griezmann scored late to give Atletico hope despite playing most of the match with 10 men.
Arsenal is sixth in the Premier League and needs the title to return to the Champions League after a one-year absence.
"I did that for 20 years," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Wednesday. "To be in the Champions League, I want to achieve it."
A failure to make it to the final would keep Wenger from winning one last title before bidding his farewell at the end of the season. Wenger announced two weeks ago he was standing down as Arsenal coach after nearly 22 years at the helm.
"I don't know what I will do next season," said Wenger, who will be in his 250th UEFA club game as a coach. "At the moment I would just like to finish my job. A man has to give his best as long as he is somewhere. I would like to walk out and think I focus only on Arsenal. I want to finish this love story well."
Wenger said Arsenal was prepared to challenge Atletico in Madrid.
"It will be a game where we know exactly what to do," Wenger said. "Our way of approaching it is clear. That is an advantage sometimes."
Atletico, which has already secured a spot in Champions League and is in second place behind champion Barcelona in the Spanish league with three matches left, had expected to contend for titles both domestically and internationally.
It didn't go as planned, however, and Atletico was eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League — something that hadn't happened in four seasons — and fell to Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.
The team did well in the Spanish league by staying ahead of Real Madrid but it never really challenged Barcelona for the title. When it had a chance to move closer, it lost to the Catalan club to see its title hopes all but evaporate.
"We always have high expectations in the beginning of the season," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "The goal is always to go as far as possible in the competitions in which we are playing."
Simeone will have to make two changes from the first leg in England. Sime Vrsaljko is suspended after being sent off about 10 minutes into the match, and Juanfran Torres still hasn't recovered from a hamstring injury sustained in the first half.
Left back Filipe Luis, out since March because of a broken left leg, has been cleared medically and was included in the squad for Thursday's match at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
"He's been out for two months so obviously he isn't quite ready to play 90 minutes," Simeone said. "But we are in an important stretch of the competition where important players like Filipe have done wonders. If I need him, he will be there."
Wenger said David Ospina will start in goal for Arsenal.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni