The draw for the Europa League semi-finals gave Arsenal the most glamorous tie: Atletico Madrid.
After Thursday night’s fortunate 2 – 2 draw in Moscow, the Frenchman declared that Diego Simeone’s men were the team he least wanted to face in the last four. From that moment, it was fated that Arsenal would play the team destined to finish runners-up behind Ernesto Valverde’s record-breaking and all-conquering Barcelona.
Whichever way you cut the season, Atletico are performing better in domestic football than Arsenal. They are second, the Gunners sixth. Champions League football is assured for the Rojiblancos but for the Gunners, it can only come by winning the Europa League.
The list goes on. Defensively, Atletico have conceded 15 in the league, Arsenal 43 (both at the time of writing). Only in goals scored do Arsene Wenger’s side have the upper hand with 61 versus 51.
But football, as we saw in last week’s Champions League and to a less celebrated extent, Europa League, thrives in its unpredictability. Roma recovered from 4 – 1 down to win on away goals; Real Madrid reached the last four with a last-minute penalty; Lazio leading 5 – 2 on aggregate found themselves ousted 6 – 5 by Salzburg while Marseille just went goal-crazy against RBS Leipzig after heading toward the exit under the away goals rules.
We can find all the statistics in the world to show a result could go one way or another, but when it comes to football, only the 90 minutes matter.
Bookmakers call this one close, or certainly the first leg. Arsenal are 7/5 to win the first leg, Atletico 7/4 and the draw is 2/1. Is there any value in the market at these prices? It’s where Sign Up Bonuses provides the answers. With details of all the current offers, the individual match odds might not hold much appeal but they can be worth so much more.
It’s the Hope That Kills You in the End
Overall, the odds reflect the belief Atletico will qualify. The Spaniards are 1/2 on to reach the final while Arsenal’s only move marginally to 52/35.
Arsenal, however, are used to upsetting the odds. They did it in last season’s FA Cup semi-final, beating Manchester City 2 – 1 and repeating the trick when they beat Chelsea by the same scoreline in the final. Can they do it again?
It was no surprise when they lost 3 – 0 to City in the Carabao Cup final last month. Had the Gunners won, beating City would be the norm and the ‘shock’ value of previous victories diminished. Now, they can revel in the underdog tag whenever they face a ‘big’ side.
Like Atletico, for instance. Eyebrows were raised at their Champions League exit although Roma’s progress to the semi-finals put is into context. Losing at home to Chelsea, failing to beat Qarabag; most unlike Atletico, given their record in previous seasons.
Arsenal fans will look at the tie with a good of trepidation. It’s always the case when they face one of Europe’s elite; the constant batterings by Bayern and Barcelona took their toll over the years. Now, the kneejerk reaction was to reach for tin hats in case the sky was falling in.
But the salvation of the supporter comes in hope. We hope the players have their best 180 minutes of the season so far. We remember the FA Cup final and other big victories. Not in the scoreline but in big matches. We find ourselves lost in reverie, for it isn’t failure which kills us. It’s the hope that this can be one better day…