Arsenal manager, Unai Emery would square off against a Valencia side he managed between 2008 and 2012 in what promises to be a feisty semi-final clash in the Europa League. For both clubs, the UEFA Europa League represents a chance at salvation and a chance to get into the lucrative Champions League if they fail to make it through their league placing. Arsenal is placed fifth in the Premier League, two points off Chelsea in the last Champions League qualifying spot with three games to go. The extra incentive of winning the Europa League and making the Champions League would make this encounter gruelling and exciting. Both clubs have history between them, Valencia has trumped Arsenal thrice in their five previous European encounters leaving the Gunners with a solitary win. Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel Paulista and Francis Coquelin have played for both clubs, with Valencia’s Coquelin missing this encounter through suspension.
Arsenal steamrollered their way through their Europa League group stages in impressive fashion, winning five out of their six games. However, the going has been a little rougher in the knockout rounds with first leg losses to Bate Borisov and Rennes in the round of 32 and 16 respectively. Their brilliant home form, featuring comfortable home wins got them into the quarterfinals. A devastating display both home and away subdued Napoli in the quarterfinals to set up the clash with Valencia. Arsenal will be without influential midfielder, Aaron Ramsey for this encounter and for the rest of the season through injury. Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang, with 4goals in 9games in this year’s competition and Alexandre Lacazette, provides the firepower in attack for the Gunners. They will be supplied by the creative genius of Özil and Mikhtaryan, not forgetting that they are tinkered by a three-time winner of the competition.
Valencia dropped out of the Champions League group stages into the Europa League this season. In a tough group featuring European giants, Juventus and Manchester United, tough losses against Juventus and a damaging draw against Young Boys of Switzerland did them in. They acquitted themselves quite well against English opposition, Manchester United in the group, drawing in England and winning in Spain. Their record since dropping into the Europa League has been excellent, rolling over Celtic, Krasnodar, and Villareal in impressive fashion. Managed by the tactically astute Marcelino, and studded with such dazzling talents like Goncalo Guedes, Ferran Torres, Rodrigo, and Dani Parejo, this Valencia team can cause Arsenal plenty of problems.
Arsenal is in a rut presently on the domestic scene, they have lost their last three games which have left them marooned in fifth place and out of the Champions League positions. Their form in Europe has been the only solace for their fans this season, the home and away demolition of Napoli in the quarterfinals is a pointer to how devastating they could be on their day. Valencia is also struggling domestically, two losses on the bounce have consigned them to the sixth position on the log. However, they have been devastating in the Europa League too. A comprehensive victory over Villareal in the quarterfinals should send an alarm in the minds of opponents.
This game is full excitement. Both teams are committed to attacking football. Therefore we expect goals to flow in this game. Arsenal would be counting on home support to carry them to a resounding victory, while Valencia would be banking on their resilience and doggedness to earn a favourable result.