Arsenal have drawn A.C. Milan in the Europa League Round of 16. The Rossoneri currently sit 7th in Serie A but are unbeaten in their last 12 matches. The Italian side topped its Europa League group with a 3-2-1 record and beat Ludogorets 4-0 on aggregate in the Round of 32. The last time these two clubs met was in the 2012 Champions League Round of 16 when Arsenal came oh-so-close to overcoming a 4-0 first leg thrashing with a fantastic 3-0 win in the return leg.
The Italian giants have fallen off the pace in the past few years, but this summer saw them spend big, bringing in a bunch of new faces. The club is also in the midst of financial questions / troubles and could be facing Financial Fair Play sanctions. But that’s next season. For now, the Italian club stands between the Gunners and the Europa League quarterfinals.
At this point, winning the Europa League is probably the Gunners’ best shot at returning to the Champions League, but with teams like Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund still in the mix, it won’t be easy. After yesterday’s performance against Östersunds, any club could trip the Gunners up, and A.C. Milan definitely has enough talent.
It will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger prioritizes the competition. Before the match in Östersunds, Wenger suggested that he will deploy his best side, and his selection for that match reflected it. His 11 for the return leg...not so much. We can probably chalk that up to being ahead 3-0 on aggregate and having a cup final at the weekend, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Arsenal travel to the San Siro for the first leg on Thursday March 8th and play the return leg at the Emirates on Thursday March 15th.
The other ties are:
Lazio vs. Dynamo Kiev
RB Leipzig vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
CSKA Moscow vs. Lyon
Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
Sporting Lisbon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Borussia Dortmund vs. RB Salzburg