Big Match Focus: Arsenal v Atletico Madrid

Arsenal continue their bid for European success this season in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Diego Simeone’s in-form Atletico Madrid on Thursday.

Europa League
Date: 26 April 2018
Round: Semi-final first leg
Kick-off: 21H05 local time/03H05 HKT
Venue: Emirates Stadium

Referee: C. Turpin
Assistants: N. Danos, C. Gringore
Fourth official: H. Zakrani

Head-to-head summary

This is the first meeting between these sides.

Players to watch

Alexandre Lacazette has found some form in recent weeks to take his tally to the season to 13 goals. He bagged a brace last time out against West Ham, while Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey were on target in the Gunners’ last European tie, the 2-2 draw with CSKA Moscow.

Antoine Griezmann was also going through a poor patch earlier in the season but discovered his form alongside Diego Costa, to score 19 in 30 games. But with Costa a doubt it remains to be seen if Griezmann will find the space he needs to operate, as Fernando Torres hopes for a dream impact from the bench ahead of his expected departure from his boyhood club.

Team form and manager quotes

Arsene Wenger’s side emerged from four successive defeat to win six in a row. They were held by CSKA in Russia but progressed regardless, ahead of losing 2-1 to Newcastle and beating West Ham 4-1.

They occupy sixth place in the Premier League, with Europa League glory their only chance of claiming a spot in the Champions League next season.

Atletico are enjoying an exceptional La Liga season, in second place behind Barcelona and ahead of Real Madrid.

They have been wobbling slightly of late, after a sensational run of 13 wins from 15 games before drawing two losing two and winning one, in all competitions. Simeone’s side come into this game having drawn 0-0 with Real Betis, after progressing to the semis by seeing off Sporting.

Ahead of the game, Wenger said: “It would really feel like an anti-climax [if Arsenal did not win the competition]. That’s why we want to give our absolute all to have a chance of going to the final.

“This group of players deserves something special. I want to do it for them, to achieve something with them because I feel they have a special mental quality. My biggest satisfaction would be to be successful together with the group of players that I have. I’ve seen them behave the whole season and they deserve it.

Simeone said: “We’re going to face a tough team. Arsenal have an important history in Europe. Both clubs want to play the final.”

He added: “We’re going to play in a marvelous stadium. Their fans are going to be 100 percent dedicated to the team.”

Team news

Diego Costa is a hamstring doubt for Atletico while Juanfran is definitely out because of his hamstring injury.

Mohamed Elneny will miss the rest of the season for Arsenal while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is sidelined and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied.