Atlético vs Arsenal – Thursday, May 3, 20:05BST/21:05CEST – Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain
Will Arsène Wenger guide his side to the UEFA Champions League before finally riding into the sunset after 22 years in charge of Arsenal? That is the prevailing question ahead of the second leg semifinal clash against Atlético Madrid.
Winning the Europa League will be the only opportunity to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League next season. Currently, sixth in the standings Arsenal qualified for the Champions League 17 times in a row between 2000 and 2017 before finally missing out on the competition at the end of last season.
Falling out of the top four in England can be deadly, and Arsenal now appear to miss out on the Champions League once again, which could hurt the club in the long-term. The Europa League was, therefore, seen as the final straw to still reach Europe’s premium competition.
As a result, it was perhaps no surprise that Arsenal dominated the first leg following Atlético full-back Šime Vrsaljko’s early dismissal for a second yellow card. It was, however, not until just after the hour that Alexandre Lacazette headed Wenger’s team in front. A characteristically obdurate Atlético defence quelled further Gunners attacks, and on 82 minutes Antoine Griezmann levelled against the run of play.
Although Atlético will be without head coach Diego Simeone, he was sent off and now faces a touchline ban following Vrsaljko’s red card in the first leg; the Spaniards now carry a distinct advantage into the second leg. A simple 0-0 draw would be enough to see Atlético advance to the final in Lyon and given Los Colchoneros knack to see out close games the Spaniards will be favourites on Thursday to advance.
Atlético vs Arsenal – Players to look out for:
Antoine Griezmann #7 – Atlético Madrid
Will he stay, or will he go? Antoine Griezmann has been at the centre of many transfer rumours with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United all mentioned as possible destinations. With 19 goals and eight assists in 30 La Liga games, there is no doubt that Griezmann would be a fantastic addition to any club. The forward has also added three goals – including the crucial goal in the first leg – and three assists in three Europa League games and has now told the press that a decision on his future will be made ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Mesut Özil #10 – Arsenal FC
It was somewhat expected that Mesut Özil would leave the Gunners at the end of the season. The German national team player, however, decided to renew his contract and will now be a key player in Arsenal’s rebuild over the coming years. With four goals and nine assists in 26 Premier League games Özil has been in excellent form, and the North London side will be relying heavily on the assist king against Atlético.
Atlético vs Arsenal – Match Stats
- Before the first leg, Arsenal and Atlético have never met in UEFA competition, though the Gunners did beat their Spanish opponents 2-1 at home in the 2009 pre-season Emirates Cup.
- The Gunners have won only ten of their 32 UEFA competition matches against teams from Spain, losing 14.
- At home their record in 14 encounters is W8 D3 L3, the most recent a 2-0 defeat against Barcelona in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg.
- The London club have won five of their nine two-legged UEFA ties with Liga opposition but have lost each of the last three – all to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.
- Atlético’s record in 28 matches against English clubs is W10 D12 L6, and they have been victorious in seven of their nine two-legged knockout contests, including each of the last three; only Derby County (1974/75 UEFA Cup) and Bolton Wanderers (2007/08 UEFA Cup) have eliminated them.
- Atlético have won 15 of their last 16 home fixtures in the UEFA Europa League, qualifying included, and have yet to concede in their three wins out of three at the Estadio Metropolitano.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Atlético vs Arsenal – 2-1
Atlético vs Arsenal – Lineups
Oblak – Juanfran, Savić, Godín, Lucas – Correa, Saúl Ñíguez, Gabi, Koke – Griezmann, Diego Costa
Head Coach: Diego Simeone
Čech – Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal – Ramsey, Xhaka, Wilshere – Mkhitaryan, Özil – Lacazette
Head Coach: Arsene Wenger
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth. Or contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.