Europa League, Atletico Madrid vs Arsenal: Match Preview
Arsenal travel to Spain to face Atletico Madrid in a game that could prove to be pivotal in determining their season and Arsene Wenger's quest for a European silverware and Champions League qualification.
Arsenal are languishing in the sixth position in Premier League with a top-four finish out of sight. They will enter the game on the back of a narrow league defeat against old rivals Manchester United. At Old Trafford, Wenger fielded a relatively weak and inexperienced team but they showed great character until Marouane Fellaini scored in the dying minutes to snatch the game. On the other hand, Diego Simeone's side came up with a win over Alaves on Sunday.
Arsenal dominated the 1st leg of the semi-final at Emirates both in terms of possession and attacking threat but lacked the end product. Oblak also showed his brilliance between the sticks and frustrated the opposition. Atletico's start to the game was catastrophic as Sime Vrsaljko was shown a red card in the ninth minute of the game.
Simeone was also sent from the touchline by the referee after his outburst on the decision. Atletico played the game on the back foot trying to keep themselves in the tie and managed to do it pretty well as Jan Oblak made a few stunning saves. A defensive error from Koscielny in the 81st minute allowed Antoine Griezmann to score a precious away goal.
Wenger rested many of his key players during the weekend. Mesut Ozil will have to play a key role in the 2nd leg and show his creativity on the pitch. Henrikh Mkhitaryan's confidence would be high as he returned from an injury to score at Old Trafford this past weekend. Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Welbeck will start come Thursday and they will need to be more clinical than they were last week.
Atletico will enter the game high on confidence after denying Arsenal a win during the first leg under tough circumstances. Diego Costa will be back for the 2nd leg and will further strengthen the side. It is worth mentioning that Atletico have not conceded a single goal at home in 2018 both in Europa League and La Liga and have scored 17.
Atletico Madrid will enter the game as favourites with their impressive home record and impregnable defence. Arsenal, on the other hand, must show the belief that they can score and be resilient at the back. They must take confidence from their recent triumph against AC Milan and try to emulate it again.
The Gunners will no doubt fight hard, but considering their poor away record this year, Atletico should make it to the final.