Arsenal face stiff Europa League challenge against Atletico by Russell
Tournament favourites Atletico Madrid stand in Arsenal’s way of reaching the final of this season’s Europa League.
The competition is the Gunners’ last chance of silverware this term and offers the club a route into the lucrative Champions League if they can claim the trophy.
The first leg takes place on April 26 at the Emirates Stadium, with the return match at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium the following Thursday.
With a 68,000 capacity and an atmosphere to rival their previous Calderon stadium, Atletico’s new home is an imposing venue.
Arsene Wenger’s side will need all the support they can muster if they are to progress to the final and they will hope that fans snap up as many Arsenal football tickets for the game as possible.
Arsenal had a largely untroubled passage to the semi-finals of the Europa League after finishing top of Group H with 13 points from their six matches.
They had a minor scare against Swedish side FK Ostersunds in the round of 32 before securing a 4-2 aggregate success, and went on to defeat Milan 5-1 overall in the last 16.
The Gunners came from 2-0 down to draw the second leg of their quarter-final at CSKA Moscow 2-2, progressing to the last four 6-3 on aggregate.
Atletico are currently second in La Liga behind runaway leaders Barcelona and are already guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League.
Diego Simeone’s side entered the Europa League at the round of 32 having finished third in their Champions League group behind Roma and Chelsea.
Atletico went on to beat Denmark’s FC Copenhagen 5-1 on aggregate, before demolishing Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1 overall in the last 16.
They subsequently defeated Sporting Lisbon 2-1 on aggregate in their quarter-final tie and represent Arsenal’s toughest challenge in the competition this season.
The two sides have never played each other in Europe, with their only previous meeting resulting in a 2-1 friendly victory for Arsenal back in 2009.
Wenger’s future at the Emirates hinges on them winning this competition, both to secure some silverware and qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Arsenal have certainly been impressive in the first leg of each of their knockout ties, beating Ostersunds and Milan without conceding a goal to take the pressure off heading into the second game and they will hope for similar fortunes against Atletico if they are going to progress to the Final
The winners of the tie will face either Marseille or Red Bull Salzburg in the final in Lyon on May 16.