Arsene Wenger’s side will need to go down the hardest possible route in order to reach the UEFA Europa League Final, as they’ve been drawn to face Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals. The two teams have played each other once before, in a friendly back in 2009, which was won by the Gunners by a scoreline of 2-1.
The other game in the draw will see French giants Marseille go head to head with RB Salzburg, as all four teams compete for a place in the final in Lyon next month. The first leg of Arsenal’s tie will be played at the Emirates on April 26th, meanwhile, the return leg in Madrid will occur on May 3rd. UEFA also conducted a draw to see which team in the final would be the ‘home’ and ‘away’ team, and whoever wins the tie between Arsenal and Atletico will officially by the away team – even though it doesn’t really make all too much of a difference.
Arsenal are coming off the back of a two-legged victory over CSKA Moscow in the quarter-finals, with the second-leg last night finishing 2-2 in order to confirm their passage into the final four. Atletico, on the other hand, overcame the challenge of Sporting Lisbon as they avoided becoming the second Spanish team of the week to suffer an unexpected exit from European competition: yes, we’re referring to Barcelona.
It’s fair to say that this isn’t the tie Arsene Wenger would’ve wanted given that these are probably the two best teams remaining in the competition, and they would’ve hoped to have avoided them until the final if it was humanly possible. Still, in order to be the best you’ve got to beat the best, and Arsenal know full well that Atletico are one of the last few challenges standing in the way of their UEFA Champions League hopes next season.
The first leg being at the Emirates will give Arsenal the chance to build a substantial lead, which is something they’ve been able to do in all of their knockout ties thus far. This draw will also raise some questions regarding what Wenger’s team selections will look like in the Premier League over the next few weeks, given that winning the Europa League is now clearly the club’s priority.
Do you believe Arsenal can defeat Atletico Madrid and reach the final?