Arsenal vs Atletico Madrid>>Watch Live Stream Onlien Free in HD. ARSENAL welcome Atletico Madrid to the Emirates on Thursday for their Europa League semi-final first-leg game.Europa League: Arsenal in nightmare semi-final draw against Atletico Madrid as Marseille get Red Bull Salzburg
The Gunners are searching for a new manager following Arsene Wenger’s announcement that he will be leaving at the end of the season but the players are concentrating on securing a place in the final.
Arsenal have been drawn against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals, with the winner set to play either Marseille or Red Bull Salzburg in the final.
The draw is the toughest one that Arsenal could have faced, with the Liga side currently ranked third by Uefa’s official club coefficients behind only Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Having reached the semi-finals of last year’s Champions League after being knocked out by eventual winners Real, Diego Simeone’s side have a proven pedigree in Europe and will head into the two-leg affair as overwhelming favourites.
The first leg is due to be played at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday 26 April, with the return leg at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on Thursday 3 May.
I rather optimistically hypothesized that Arsenal would be just fine without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, so long as nothing else came back to bite them in the arse. After all, being delusional is part of the draw of loving a club like this.
Gradually, I’m feeling my resolve bend and potentially break regarding the Armenian and the club’s need for him. There was talk he may have been able to return to the squad ahead of the first leg against Atletico Madrid, but that is proving to be false, as he has yet to return to training. This first leg, therefore, will be without the engine that Mkhitaryan is, and given the nature of the opponent, the Gunners will be facing a clear test regarding just how much that absence is going to effect them going forward.
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By the time the final whistle blows, I hope we can answer the question of just how important it is that Mkhitaryan be potentially rushed back for the second leg. If he is healing as quickly as it seems, then even the potential of having him on the bench, given an inconclusive first leg, is a game-changer.
Mesut Ozil is only now returning from another mystery illness, which, given the short time he has between that return (yesterday) and the actual match, I’m more than a bit hesitant that he will need a bit of help unlocking perhaps the best defense in Europe.
And who will he look to? Jack Wilshere. Aaron Ramsey. Granit Xhaka. Guys that are capable of being that potential crutch, but guys that also serve in different capacities than Mkhitaryan. Wilshere is probably the closest thing to a potential fill in, but even then, he has been exceptionally average these past few months.
In an ideal situation, we see an Arsenal club come out and dominate possession, show incisive play and score a goal or three thanks to sustained pressure and we don’t need to worry about Mkhitaryan.
Speaking after Thursday’s match in Moscow, manager Arsene Wenger admitted he would prefer to avoid Atletico given they are the strongest side on paper left in the competition.
“Looking at all the results as a whole picture in Europe this week, you would say that teams have become closer and the games are very open and everything is possible in every single game,” Wenger said.
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“Everybody speaks about Atletico Madrid that they look the strongest team on paper, but you must say when you look at the results that Salzburg have done again… I am from France and Marseille are in there as well and that is always a difficult place to go… maybe it is better that I don’t wish for anybody.”
Atletico progressed at the expense of Sporting Lisbon despite suffering a 1-0 defeat in Portugal on Thursday evening. Danny Welbeck helped Arsenal beat CSKA Moscow to reach the semi-finals (Getty)
Diego Simeone’s side are currently second in the La Liga table behind runaway leaders Barcelona.
The other semi-final will be between Ligue 1 side Marseille and Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg, who advanced following fine comeback wins over RB Leipzig and Lazio respectively on Thgursday night.
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