Arsenal heads to the return leg of their UEFA Europa Cup semi-final on Thursday night in a match dubbed ‘Do-Or-Die’ encounter at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium home of Atletico Madrid in Madrid with the sole aim of dumping the Spanish side out of the race and possibly go ahead to win the title for outgoing manager, Arsene Wenger and provide a short-cut to participating in the Champions League next season.
The Gunners failed to capitalize on Atletico’s one-man disadvantage in the first leg of the semi-final at the Emirates Stadium following the dismissal of Sime Vrsaljko and they could have gone ahead to score more goals in the first leg, but they ended up wasting most of the chances an action were purnished for thier actions when Antoine Griezmann levelled for the Spanish side settle the game on a 1-1 stalemate.
Arsenal would now be faced with a herculean task when they play Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano and must ensure they put up a very high performance to win against their hosts, a task which indeed would seem so bleak going by their first leg performance.
Atletico Madrid has remained unbeaten in their new home Wanda Metropolitano Stadium a record stretching back to January in all competitions. Therefore winning against Atletico would be one of Arsene Wenger’s greatest achievements as the game would be his 250th game since his reign as Arsenal coach in all Uefa competition.
Atletico Madrid boast of more records than Arsenal as far as Europe competitions are concerned. They are three times Champions League runners-up, have won the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup twice while Arsenal has played in the final of the champions’ league once and has never won the Europa League.
Arsene Wenger traveled to Old Trafford last weekend in their Premier League game with a squad made up of young players and was defeated 2-1 by Manchester United. The French tactician deployed that method to ensure that his key players are well rested ahead of Atletico Madrid.
Arsenal have not been clinical in their away matches this season as they almost lost the ticket to CSKA Moscow in the quarter-final second leg in Russia,
The club has also slipped from the Premier League pecking order as they are now sitting in the sixth place, Arsenal is no more the same team that has remained in the top four for over 20 years which has seen them competing in the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid has already booked their place for next season’s Champions League as they now hold grip to the second place in the La Liga table having lost the title to Barcelona. They defeated Alaves by a lone goal to cement their place for another Champions League outing.
Diego Costa made an emphatic return to the team after traveling with them to London but did not play, also former Chelsea defender, Luis Filipe is back to the squad also after he was ruled out by injury in the first leg, Sime Vrsaljko remains suspended after his red card from the first leg.
Alex Iwobi has traveled despite suffering a slight hamstring injury in the weekend defeat at Manchester United but Henrihk Mkhitaryan is a boost to the Arsenal squad as he returned to haunt Manchester United in Old Trafford scoring Arsenal goal in their 2-1 loss to United. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied and Mohamed Elneny and Santi Cazorla are also out due to injuries.
PROBABLE STARTING LINE-UP
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak; Juanfran, Godin, Gimenez, Lucas; Correa, Saul, Partey, Koke; Costa, Griezmann.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey; Ozil, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan; Lacazette.
WHAT THE COACHES ARE SAYING
DIEGO SIMEONE: “I said it after the match in London, we need a rocking atmosphere at the Wanda Metropolitano,” “We need our fans to transmit us excitement and positive energy.”
“I’m expecting a similar and even match, They’re going to come out looking to score, but we’re going to try to be very united, direct and convincing.”
“Arsenal have great players, a great coach and lots of players who attack through the lines. They’re very fast in the final metres of the pitch and Montreal and Bellerín add a great presence on the wings. Lacazette is a fantastic player. He has good movements and is good in the air.”
ARSENE WENGER: I don’t know what I will do next season. At the moment, I would like to finish my job well. I believe a man has to give his best as long as he is somewhere, with all his commitment and energy. I would like one day to know I worked with all my energy until the last day. I would like to look back and think I finished this love affair well.”
In football, you think you have seen it before but you can always discover new things. Every game surprises you – that’s why it is a new adventure. You never know what to expect. That’s why the excitement is the same.