25th of April 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
The main attraction of the UEFA Europa League semi-finals is the tie between Arsenal and Atletico Madrid and it all begins with the first leg that will be played at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday. Even though both sides have played in European competitions almost every season during the past few decades, this will be the first ever meeting between them. Arsenal have won ten of their 31 matches against Spanish teams in European competitions until now, while Atletico Madrid have defeated English teams ten times out of 27 occasions.
The Europa League is the highlight of Arsenal's season finale and also the last trophy that Arsene Wenger could win during his 22-year spell in charge of the Gunners. The legendary French manager has announced that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season, and that might give his players extra motivation to perform well in the Europa League. Moreover, winning this trophy is the only chance for the Gunners to qualify for next season's Champions League. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jack Wilshere and Petr Cech remain injury doubts for the home side, while new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied.
Atletico Madrid have already obtained their qualification for next season's Champions League as they are certain to finish in the top four in LaLiga and will most likely finish second, just ahead of rivals Real Madrid. Winning the Europa League is not exactly what head coach Diego Simeone and his players had as an objective at the start of the season, but since they have they chance they will surely try to grab it with both hands. Diego GodÃn, Koke and Antoine Griezmann were rested at the weekend so they will be fresh and ready to play on Thursday, but Diego Costa, Juanfran and Filipe Luis are injured.
Arsenal: Cech - Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal - Ramsey, Xhaka - Welbeck, Wilshere, Ozil - Lacazette
Atletico: Oblak - Vrsaljko, Savic, Godin, Hernandez - Correa, Partey, Niguez, Koke - Gameiro, Griezmann
My prediction: Arsenal to win 2-1.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Arsenal win - 2.54
Draw - 3.29
Atletico win - 3.00
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This supposed to be a big tournament for Arsenal but after Wenger declared his leaving I'm not sure if the team would be that motivated if they were to save his job.
That has an other side of it too, the pressure might be off from the Arsenal staff and players so let's see.
I'm expecting an attractive style from them but whether Simeone's team would allow that is about for us to see.
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