Publish date:

Arsenal Continues Europa League Quest in Tough Semifinal vs. Atletico Madrid

Arsenal hosts Atletico Madrid in the opening leg of the Europa League semifinals.

Arsenal face the most important game of their season so far, when they host Atletico Madrid for the first leg of the Europa League semifinals. 

The Gunners are three games away from their first piece a European silverware under Arsene Wenger and a return to the Champions League. However, it will be no east feat overcoming Atletico who have won the Europa League twice already. 

Diego Simeone's men have also been Champions League runners-up twice in recent seasons. It will be a huge triumph for the Gunners to progress to the finals.

Here's the rundown of this huge European semi final.

Image placeholder title

Recent Form

It may come as a surprise to some that this is the first competitive meeting between Arsenal and Atletico Madrid. Their only previous encounter came in 2009 where Arsenal beat Atletico 2-1 in the Emirates Cup. 

In the last round of the Europa League, both teams were made to sweat in the second leg against their respective opponents. After winning 4-1 at the Emirates, Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down against CSKA Moscow for the away fixture, with the Russian side coming within a goal of progressing to the semi finals on away goals. 

The Gunners rallied and managed to find late goals through Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey. Mohamed Elneny pulled the strings, setting up both goals to rescue the Gunners from the brink of a shock elimination. 

Meanwhile Atletico managed to hold onto their aggregate lead over Sporting CP. Atleti won 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano in the first leg, but found themselves a goal down in Lisbon for the second leg. Atleti had to dig deep to prevent extra time, but defended well against Sporting's attacking barrage. 

Since their last European outings, domestic results have been a mixed bag for both teams. Arsenal's poor away form came to haunt them again when they lost 2-1 to Newcastle United. Arsene Wenger has also since announced that he will leave the club at the end of the season. The Gunners responded to the news well with a 4-1 at home to West Ham, in the first part of Wenger's farewell tour. 

Atletico Madrid did manage a 3-0 win against Levante since their last Europa League game, but also uncharacteristically conceded three goals in a La Liga clash with Real Sociedad. A draw in their last game against Real Betis means that Atleti have dropped five points in their last two games, all-but confirming Barcelona as this year's league champions. 

Image placeholder title

Team News

Arsenal will be without Mohamed Elneny, after the Egyptian picked up a nasty looking ankle injury against West Ham. Elneny put in a man of the match worthy performance against CSKA Moscow in the last round, so could be a big miss for the Gunners. 

SI Recommends

Jack Wilshere has a good chance of being fit in time for this game after missing Arsenal's last two matches due to an ankle problem. Mesut Ozil will be expected to have recovered from his illness, and Sead Kolasinac could also be deemed fit in time for Thursday. 

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is recovering well from a knee injury, but it might be too soon to see him return to the match day squad. As usual, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible. 

Arsenal fans will have not welcomed the news that Diego Costa has been included in Atletico Madrid's squad list for this game. Simeone previously said that the striker had no chance of being fit in time for this game after missing Atleti's last three matches due to a hamstring problem. Costa could be involved on Thursday, but may not start. 

Atletico will certainly be without defensive duo Juanfran and Filipe Luis for the first leg. Juanfran is sidelined due to the hamstring problem, while Luis continues to recover from a leg fracture. 

Image placeholder title

Potential Arsenal Starting Lineup: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Xhaka; Ozil, Wilshere, Welbeck; Lacazette

Potential Atletico Starting Lineup: Oblak; Vrsaljko, Savic, Godin, Hernandez; Correa, Gabi, Niguez, Koke; Gameiro, Griezmann

Image placeholder title


Atletico Madrid will be the 125th team Arsene Wenger has faced as Arsenal boss and the tenth Spanish team Arsenal have met in European competition. 

The Gunners have won more points at home in this season (44) than any other Premier League side. Recent form has shown once again that performances away from home have really let Arsenal down this season. 

Arsene Wenger's men have also scored the most goals in the Europa League this year with 29, but Atletico only entered the competition at the knockout stage. 

Atletico Madrid also demonstrated in the last round that they too are not the strongest team away from home. The Gunners will know that they cannot afford to concede a goal at the Emirates, or they risk being shut out at the Wanda Metropolitano by Atletico's excellent defense.

Arsenal are probably facing Atletico at the ideal time. The Spanish side are not in the best form and the Arsenal players will be determined to give Wenger the send off he deserves. 

Prediction: Arsenal 1-0 Atletico Madrid