Arsenal enters the most desperate phase of their season as a make-or-break game against Atletico Madrid looms, where a win could send them into the Final
Arsenal must pull all strings to win their semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid and stand any chance of playing in next season’s champions league. Atletico broke Gunners hearts in the first leg after Antoine Griezmann equalised late in the first-leg for 10-man Rojiblancos to take home a significant advantage.
Arsenal will be hoping for a major slip up from Atletico when they meet the Spanish giants in the second leg, but it would be a thoroughly tricky task to break them, especially on their home turf. But Atletico are a tight side to beat at home with Diego Simeone especially known for preparing ultra-defensive teams in conditions like these.
With a champions league qualification at stake, Arsenal will have to be at their best to overcome Atletico Madrid and more importantly they will be looking to make the final for their departing, long-serving manager. But Arsenal’s task would not be an easy one against one of Spain’s best teams, mainly when they will be with 11-men on the field.
Team News & Tactics
Diego Simeone’s men showed plenty of courage to deny Arsenal the many goals they could have scored, but the manager will have to reshuffle his pack for the second-leg with some required and essential changes. The first bad news would be that Simeone himself would be watching the game from the stands after being sent-off in the first-leg.
The first order of change would be Diego Costa starting against a team he has so much of history with, albeit as a villain. Costa had just come back from a hamstring injury for the first leg, unfortunately not playing a role. He did start against Alaves at the weekend, meaning he should be fit to start against Arsenal.
Sime Vrsaljko will be suspended after being sent off in the first leg, along with first choice right-back Juanfran who is out injured. Stefan Savic could play in the right-back position as a result. Filipe Luis, on the other hand, has made a full recovery from a broken leg but is unlikely to play a part in this game, meaning Lucas Hernandez could start.
Probable Starting-XI (4-3-3) – Oblak; Savic, Jimenez, Godin, Hernadez; Correa, Koke, Partey; Gameiro, Costa, Griezmann
Arsene Wenger rested many of his key players in his side’s defeat to Manchester United. As a result, Wenger has a relatively fresh squad to face Atletico, with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey all set to return to the Starting-XI against Atletico.
Earlier this week there were doubts on the participation of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, David Ospina and Alex Iwobi after all three of them suffered knocks against Manchester United. But they have returned to training and Wenger will be hoping Mkhitaryan, in particular, would be available.
Key defenders, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal too will likely return to the team after the former two were rested entirely while Monreal came on in the second period last weekend to replace Kolasinac who went off injured.
Probable Starting-XI (4-3-3) – Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey; Ozil, Welbeck, Lacazette
- Arsenal are without a win in their last six visits to Spain in Europea competitions.
- Arsenal, however, have progressed to the final after drawing their last two first leg semi-finals.
- Atletico Madrid have lost just once in their last 17 home games in European competitions, to Chelsea earlier this season.
- If Arsenal, go through, it will be their third European final under Wenger and sixth overall, although they lost the previous two under the French manager.
- If Atletico goes through, then it would be their third Europa League final and equal Sevilla’s record in doing so.
Player To Watch
Ozil was a critical attacking component in the first-leg, and if not for Jan Oblak’s heroics, Arsenal would have scored plenty more. I many of those attacking moves, Ozil played a crucial role in making things happen for Arsenal going forward and will have to play a crucial part in the second-leg.
The feeling that responsibilities have increased on the German since signing his new deal seems unjust, although Ozil is Arsenal’s most important creative player. It will be a challenging prospect for him to unlock a stubborn Atletico defence, but if Arsenal are to go through to the final, they would need Ozil at his very best.
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Arsenal
As per our predictions, this tie could go into extra time, and the fittest team then could take the victory. Despite the late error from Arsenal’s defence in the first-leg, it would be harsh enough to write-off their prospects in this tie. Arsenal would have likely attacked more even if Atletico Madrid had 11-men on the pitch, but the Gunners were a potent threat to the Rojiblancos.
The second leg would be exciting, as Atletico, not known very much for their scoring, but instead are for their defending. Arsenal can attack the best of opponents and score goals, but also have a suspect problem of leaking in unwanted goals. Expect the strikeforce of Costa and Griezmann to cause plenty of problems for Arsenal, although the game could very well end up in a 1-1 draw.