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Arsenal will face Spanish La Liga giants Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Europa League. French Ligue 1 outfit Olympique Marseille were drawn against Austrian Bundesliga side Red Bull Salzburg. The first legs and second legs kick off at 8:05pm.

Europa League semi-final draw

Thursday, April 26, 2018

  • Olympique Marseille v Red Bull Salzburg
  • Arsenal v Atletico Madrid

Thursday, May 3, 2018

  • Red Bull Salzburg v Olympique Marseille
  • Atletico Madrid v Arsenal

The reaction from many Arsenal supporters has been negative given the calibre of Diego Simeone’s side. Atleti are the strongest outfit the Gunners could have faced in the Europa League by some distance and are favourites to go all the way as a result.

Before the draw, Wenger said: “Everybody speaks about Atletico Madrid, they look strongest on paper from now on, but you must recognise as well the result that Salzburg has achieved. I am from France, Marseille are in there as well which is always a difficult place to go.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal’s Europa League campaign this season

  • 14/9/17 (Group H) Arsenal 3-1 FC Koln
  • 28/9/17 (Group H) BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal
  • 19/10/17 (Group H) Red Star 0-1 Arsenal
  • 2/11/17 (Group H) Arsenal 0-0 Red Star
  • 23/11/17 (Group H) FC Koln 1-0 Arsenal
  • 7/12/17 (Group H) Arsenal 6-0 BATE Borisov
  • 15/2/18 (Last-32) FK Ostersund 0-3 Arsenal
  • 22/2/18 (Last-32) Arsenal 1-2 FK Ostersund
  • 8/3/18 (Last-16) AC Milan 0-2 Arsenal
  • 15/3/18 (Last-16) Arsenal 3-1 AC Milan
  • 5/4/18 (Quarter-final) Arsenal 4-1 CSKA Moscow
  • 12/4/18 (Quarter-final) CSKA Moscow 2-2 Arsenal

Atletico Madrid’s Champions League/Europa League campaign

  • 12/9/17 (Champions League) AS Roma 0-0 Atletico Madrid
  • 27/9/17 (Champions League) Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea
  • 18/10/17 (Champions League) Qarabag FK 0-0 Atletico Madrid
  • 31/10/17 (Champions League) Atletico Madrid 1-1 Qarabag FK
  • 22/11/17 (Champions League) Atletico Madrid 2-0 Roma
  • 5/12/17 (Champions League) Chelsea 1-1 Atletico Madrid
  • 15/2/18 (Europa League) FC Copenhagen 1-4 Atletico Madrid
  • 22/2/18 (Europa League) Atletico Madrid 1-0 FC Copenhagen
  • 8/3/18 (Europa League) Atletico Madrid 3-0 Lokomotiv Moscow
  • 15/3/18 (Europa League) Lokomotiv Moscow 1-5 Atletico Madrid
  • 5/4/18 (Europa League) Atletico Madrid 2-0 Sporting CP
  • 12/4/18 (Europa League) Sporting CP 1-0 Atletico Madrid

Arsenal fell short of expectations in the race for a top-four finish last season which is why they’re in the Europa League and they’re very unlucky to face Atleti in this competition.

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone. Picture: By Антон Зайцев

The Rojiblancos have won the Europa League twice in the last eight years, finished runners-up in Champions League twice in the last four years, won the La Liga title in the last four years and are currently second in La Liga, four points clear of Real Madrid. They’re no slouches.

Arsenal would have fancied their chances of beating Salzburg or Marseille in the semi-finals, but they can’t rue their bad luck. Their hopes of attaining Champions League football next season depends on them winning Europa.

Arsene Wenger’s side are currently sixth in the Premier League table, 13 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur after 32 games. The Gunners are in form, boasting three consecutive top-flight wins, but their chances of catching Spurs are slim.

It’s been nine years since Arsenal last reached a semi-final of a European competition and the strength of Atleti means the Gunners may not get any further. Wenger’s men had fallen at the last-16 stage between 2010/11 and 2016/17 but they’re 180 minutes from a final.

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