Arsenal to face Atletico Madrid in Europa League semi-finals
Gunners are drawn against Spanish giants after surviving second-leg scare against CSKA Moscow
13 April, 2018 — By Steve Barnett
The first leg of Arsenal’s semi-final tie will take place at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday, April 26
ARSENE Wenger was handed the draw he didn’t want in the semi-finals of the Europa League after being paired with tournament favourites Atletico Madrid.
The Gunners survived a scare in Russia last night (Thursday) to book their place in the final four by beating CSKA Moscow. But it was far from plain sailing as the 4-1 advantage they had gained in the first leg was soon reduced to just one goal as CSKA opened up a 2-0 lead at the VEB Arena.
Finding themselves one goal away from going out of the tournament, Danny Welbeck struck to ease the tensions and settle the nerves. Aaron Ramsey then scored in injury time to earn Arsenal a 2-2 draw on the night, and a 6-3 victory on aggregate.
Speaking after the game, Wenger spoke of his wish to avoid Atletico in today’s (Friday) draw, which was held in Switzerland.
“Ideally, we will avoid them,” he said. “Maybe they are the strongest on paper, but let’s play well against whichever team we get.”
That wish, however, was quickly washed away as the Gunners were paired with the Spanish giants, with the first leg being played at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday, April 26, and the reverse leg at the Wanda Metropolitano a week later.
There’s no doubt that Atletico are the strongest team left in the Europa League, boasting one of the meanest defences in Europe, while in attack they have former Chelsea striker Diego Costa, a player who has often been a thorn in Arsenal’s side, and Antoine Griezmann.
They also know how to win the competition, having lifted the trophy in 2010 and 2012.
The other semi-final will see French club Marseille tackle Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg.
The final will be held in Lyon, France, on Wednesday, May 16, with the winner guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League.