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The Referee Could Decide This Match For Arsenal

atletico madrid arsenal semi final europa league match preview

Match Preview: Atletico Madrid vs. Arsenal - Europa League - 03.05.2018

Tonight's second-leg Europa League semi-final is Arsène Wenger's 250th European match with Arsenal and given the task ahead could be his last, as the manager will step down at the end of the season after almost 22 years in charge. 

Atletico have been in imperious form at their new home, conceding only 4 goals there all season - scoring will be difficult for the Gunners but that is precisely what they must do. Arsenal created plenty of chances in the first leg and were by far the better team. They played with confidence and elan but lacked the incisive ruthlessness that is required to put multiple goals past a keeper of Oblak's stature.

Arsenal can feel unforunate to be starting this second leg on terms but they'll have learned plenty of lessons from the first 90 minutes to edge this tie overall. The attack must be more clinical yet less perfectionist -- waiting for the perfect chance in this match will be suicide, putting Oblak under consistent pressure is the way forward. The midfield must not neglect their defensive duties and the centre-backs must be flawless. Arsenal's attack just did enough to shade the first tie and it was a series of mindboggling defensive errors that gave Atletico a lifeline. 

In Diego Costa and Antione Griezmann Atletico boast two attackers who can survive on the meanest, dust particle sized crumbs -- they cannot be allowed even a whiff of goal. Xhaka will need to keep Saul Niguez quiet and it's a job he'll likely have to perform alone as Wenger is sure to opt for Ramsey, Özil and Mkhitaryan in midfield.

Danny Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette have enough pace and presence to cause problems for Atleti and if they get the service our creative midfielders are capable of giving they should have ample chances to find the back of the net. Should Arsenal take an early lead the onus will then be on Atletico to attack which would suit Arsenal for the counter-attack. What Arsenal must not do is take a lead for granted or give Madrid the chance to counter themselves.

Simeone's gameplan should be one that we are familar with as his side only need a 0-0 draw to go through. Expect Atleti to park the bus and attempt to frustrate the game before hitting long, hopeful balls to Costa.

Tonight's result could be highly influenced by the referee. Should the referee perform as well as Clement Turpin did in the first leg then Arsenal have a great chance to go through. Arsenal's relative dominance in the match was enabled by a referee who refused to allow any sh*thousery from Atletico who thrive in chaotic, disruptive conditions. Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi takes the match tonight and he is usually as fair as Turpin was last week. He is unlikely to be phased by the occasion but high-tension matches in hostile stadiums can influence even the best referees.

If Arsenal don't go through tonight it will not be because of any bad refereeing (normal caveats apply of course) but because of a failure to capitalise on the first leg chances. 

Wenger's 250 European matches is a great feat but a manager of his talent and with the teams he has built will feel he should have won a European trophy for Arsenal. Let's make sure we give him the best chance to seal his legacy by getting through to the final. 

clement turpin arsenal atletico madrid red card europa league semi final

LAST THREE Meetings

  • Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid (26.04.2018)

The first leg was the only other time these two sides have met in a competitive match.

FACTFILE

  • Arsenal have not won an away game in 2018
  • Atletico have not conceded at home in their last 11 games
  • Arsenal haven't won in their past six European visits to Spain (D2 L4). Their last win was in February 2006, a 1-0 victory against Real Madrid in their run to the Champions League final
  • Simeone's well-drilled Madrid team have only conceded 4 goals at home all season
  • 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)
  • Atletico have lost just one of their past 17 home games in European competition (W13 D3)
  • 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).
  • In the first leg, Arsenal had 28 shots - only Real Sociedad against Vardar (32) in October have had more in a single game in the Europa League this season
  • Should Arsenal progress from this tie, it'd be the first time two English sides had made the final of the two major European competitions since 2005-06 (Arsenal in the Champions League, Middlesbrough in the UEFA Cup)

INJURIES 

Elneny is out. Iwobi faces a late fitness test but Ospina should be fit to start after suffering a rib injury against Manchester United.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI

Ospina; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck, Özil; Lacazette.

GOONERSPHERE'S PREDICTION

2-1 to Arsenal. 

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