There’s not much to say about Thursday’s Europa League semifinal first leg against Atlético Madrid at the Emirates that hasn’t been said already. The path to a Europa League win, Arsene Wenger’s first European trophy, and a return to the Champions League next season was always going to go through Atléti. They’ve been the team to beat since entering the competition in the knockout stages.
Arsene Wenger heaped praise on the Spanish side in his pre-match press conference.
We need to get a positive result, it won’t be over after tomorrow. They have no real weak point, they are strong defensively, they are strong offensively, we need a complete performance.
For more in-depth analysis of Atléti, check out the questions we had for our sister blog Into the Calderon (also, our answers to their questions) and this great piece on Atlético’s season so far from Madrid-based journalist and guest columnist Euan McTear.
The Gunners head into the tie relatively healthy. Mesut Özil, Petr Čech, Jack Wilshere, and Sead Kolašinac all returned to training on Wednesday after being out at the weekend. Wilshere’s return is especially important given the ankle injury sustained by Mohamed Elneny against Newcastle. The Englishman should slide into the center of Arsenal’s midfield, albeit in a different role from Elneny. Henrikh Mkhitaryan had an outside shot of reaching fitness for Thursday’s match but will not be ready in time. Wenger is hopeful the Armenian will be available for the second leg.
Diego Simeone received good news on the injury front as well. Arsenal’s (and everyone’s, really) nemesis Diego Costa was fit enough to travel to London. It’s unclear if Costa will be able to play a full 90 minutes; even if he does play, he may not be firing at 100%. Perhaps more noteworthy - Atlético will be without preferred fullbacks Filipe Luis and Juanfran.
It’s always important to get a result in the first leg of a tie, but it’s even more important when you have to go away for the second leg. I don’t see Arsenal advancing without winning at the Emirates, and I think they will need to either win by 2 or not concede an away goal to have a good a shot going into the Wanda Metropolitano. Unfortunately, I get the feeling tomorrow will be 2-1 to Arsenal, which means the Gunners will face a tall task next week in Madrid. But hey, that’s why they play the games, right?
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Atlético Madrid
WHERE: Emirates Stadium, London
WHEN: Thursday, April 26th 2018 12:05 PM PT | 3:05 PM ET | 8:05 PM BT
US TV: Fox Sports. Streaming on Fox Sports GO and WatchESPN.
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