UEFA Europa League (Semi Finals Return Legs)
Atletico Madrid (1) vs (1) Arsenal
Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Ita).
Arsenal go into Thursday’s Europa League semi final winless in their past six European visits to Spain (D2 L4), last winning in February 2006, – a 1-0 victory against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Alex Iwobi has travelled despite suffering a slight hamstring injury in the weekend defeat at Manchester United but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied and Mohamed Elneny (ankle) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) are also out. Wenger has confirmed that David Ospina will start ahead of Petr Cech in goal.
For the hosts, Diego Costa started his first game for Atleti in three weeks at the weekend, though did not impress as Alves were beaten 1-0 on Sunday. The former Chelsea striker is expected to feature after sitting out the first leg. Sime Vrsaljko is suspended after his red card from the first leg.
On the previous two occasions Arsenal have drawn the first leg of a European semi-final, they’ve progressed to the final (1979-80 and 1993-94 Cup Winners Cup). However, the past five teams to achieve a score-draw away from home in the first leg of a major European semi-final have progressed to the final, including both teams in the Europa League (Dnipro in 2014-15 and Sevilla in 2015-16). Atletico have lost just one of their past 17 home games in European competition (W13 D3), but that was to an English side (Chelsea in the CL group stage this season). The Gunners are aiming to qualify for their sixth major European final, and third under Arsene Wenger – they reached the Uefa Cup final in 2000 and Champions League final in 2006 under the Frenchman, losing both. Alexandre Lacazette has had a hand in 13 goals in his past 13 Europa League starts (11 goals, two assists).
Arsenal had a chance to win the first leg after they got themselves into a great position, leading 1-0 and a man up but somehow let Atletico get back level so I think it’s a big opportunity missed. I don’t see Arsenal out playing the Spanish side in their own back yard let alone the Gunners frequenting Atletico’s goal.
Prediction: Both teams to play out a goalless draw.
RB Salzburg (0) vs (2) Olympique De Marseille
Red Bull Arena, Wals-Siezenheim
Referee: Sergey Karasev (Rus).
Salzburg manager Marco Rose has a fully fit squad at his disposal and changes are hardly expected despite an ordinary performance in the first leg at Marseille. Salzburg lost the first leg 2-0 in France but have overturned a similar deficit in the previous round by cancelling a 4-2 loss at Lazio with a 4-1 win at their home turf.
Steve Mandanda, Hiroki Sakai and Boubacar Kamara are the players sidelined with injuries for the Olympians. Rudi Garcia has no reasons to make change to the eleven that performed admirably in the first leg.
Salzburg are unbeaten in their 7 home games in the Europa League this season, 5 wins and 2 draws. They kept clean sheets in 5 of those and three of those wins came by 3 or more goal margins. Marseille have an unbeaten home record in the competition, but they have managed only 1 win from their 8 away games so far (3 draws and 4 losses). But, they have not conceded more than 1 goal in any of those.
Three meetings between the two sides so far, all in this season. The teams now share a win, draw and loss. Salzburg’s overall record against French Ligue 1 clubs is 3 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses from 7 games. At home, they won 2 and lost 1 of the three so far. Marseille’s overall record against Austrian clubs is 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses from 7 games. They won 1 and lost 2 of the three away visits to Austria.
Salzburg will dream until the final whistle but looking at the quality in Marseille’s ranks, i think they will go through despite losing the game tonight.
Prediction: Salzburg to win by a one goal margin.