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Arsenal target first European final in 12 years as they host Atletico Madrid in Europa League

Arsene Wenger hopes to end his Arsenal reign with a European trophy

Arsenal vs Atletico Madrid

Emirates Stadium, London

Thursday, 24-04-2018 @10:05pm

Referee: Clement Turpin (Fra).

Arsenal will head into their first ever meeting with Spanish giants Atletico Madrid hoping that they can make it to a seventh European final and one which is most certainly the last under the stewardship of legendary manager Arsene Wenger. If they can get passed the team from Madrid, Wenger will have led the Gunners into a third final on the continent despite losing all the first two.

Arsenal are appearing in their eighth European semi-final – they have progressed from six of the previous seven, only failing to reach the final in 2008-09 in the Champions League when they lost to Manchester United.

The Gunners have Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Petr Cech available after they all missed Sunday’s 4-1 win against West Ham United in the league. Santi Cazorla, Muhammad Elneny and Henrikh Mkhitaryan remain out for Arsene Wenger’s men.  Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible for Arsenal, having played for Dortmund earlier Europe.

Mesut Ozil is one of three Arsenal first team players returning from injury

For Atletico Madrid, their striker  Striker Diego Costa has been named in a 20-man squad for the trip despite boss Diego Simeone saying at the weekend that the Spain forward had no chance of being fit for the game at Emirates Stadium because of a hamstring injury.  Full-back Juanfran will miss Thursday’s game because of  injury.

Having announced he will leave Arsenal at the end of the season, the Europa League is Wenger’s final chance to win a major trophy at the club and he will face his 125th different opponent as Arsenal boss – he has only lost his first match against 10 of the previous 124. Arsenal have scored 29 goals in the Europa League this season, more than any other side. In only one previous European campaign have the Gunners scored more, netting 30 in 1999-2000 when they competed in both the Champions League and the Uefa Cup. Atletico Madrid have scored 15 goals in their six Europa League games this season, giving them the best goals-per-game average in the competition (2.5). Diego Simeone is yet to lose an away European match in England as Atletico manager (W1 D2), with one win and a draw against Chelsea and a draw with Leicester City.

The Arsenal players will be licking their lips about the prospect of giving Wenger a perfect send off and will fancy their chances against an Atletico Madrid side that very much looks a shadow of a force they were a couple of seasons ago. At the Emirates, Arsenal can very much topple any oppositions and i think they will defeat Diego Simone’s men.

Prediction: Arsenal to win but with a slim margin.

 

Olympique Marseille vs Red Bull Salzburg

Stade Velodrome, Marseillle

Thursday, 24-04-2018 @10:05pm

Referee: William Collum (Sco).

Marseille battle Red Bull Salzburg for a place the Europa League final after meeting for the first time in this season’s group stage.  The Austrians managed to pick four points when they met Marseille in the group stage winning 1-0 at home before a goal-less stalemate at the Stade Vélodrome.

Marseille and Salzburg met in the group stages this season

Experienced goal-keeper Steve Mandanda and young defender Boubacar Kamara are the players on the sidelines for the Olympians. The hardworking Hiroki Sakai suffered a knock in the first leg tie against RB Leipzig and he is also expected to miss out.

For the Austrians, Diadie Samassekou is available for selection after serving his one match suspension. Therefore, Salzburg manager Marco Rose has a full-fit squad at his disposal.

Both teams were part of memorable comebacks in the quarter finals. Marseille overturned a 1-0 defeat at Leipzig with a thumping 5-2 home win while Salzburg knocked out Lazio with a 4-1 home win after a 4-2 loss in Rome. Marseille are unbeaten at home in this season’s Europa League carrying over from the qualification stages. They won 7 of their 8 games at the Vélodrome and the only team to deny them a victory is their semifinal opponent. Salzburg have a decent away record in this season’s Europa League. They were unbeaten until the defeat at Lazio with 3 wins and 3 draws from the previous 6 games. The important point is that they scored 2 goals in the three away knockout games.

Marseille’s record against Austrian clubs is 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses from six matches. At home, they are unbeaten with a win and 2 draws. Salzburg’s record against French sides is 3 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses from six games. They won, drew and lost 1 each from 3 outings on French soil.

Rudi Garcia has seen an improvement in results at the French club since the turn of the year

Salzburg will know that the win and draw in the groups against Marseille counts for nothing at this stage and when you look at how Rudi Garcia’s men have improved since last year, it will be difficult to stop them especially in the first leg at the Velodrome.

Prediction: Marseille to win by two more clear goals.

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