Arsenal v Atletico Madrid
Thursday 26 April, 20:05
Live on BT Sport

Is this the final test of Wenger's acumen at Arsenal?

For all the majesty of Arsene Wenger's long reign at Arsenal, especially the first half of it, there is one glaring hole in the honours board. Three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups have been crammed into the trophy cabinet on Wenger's watch, but a European triumph has always eluded him. A painful Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in Paris will always sting, as will the shock UEFA Cup final loss on penalties to Galatasary at the turn of the millennium.
With Wenger set to reluctantly leave the Emirates in the summer like a child sullenly fighting against bedtime, the Frenchman has one last chance to end that continental drought. With a tough trip to the Wanda Metropolitano on the horizon, and an atrocious set of away results in the books, Arsenal know they must make this home leg count.
The Gunners' home form is generally strong. They have won their last six games at the Emirates in all competitions, scoring 20 goals in the process. However, they have sometimes struggled against elite opposition. They were smacked 3-0 by Manchester City, they lost to Manchester United, and in the league they were held to draws by Liverpool and Chelsea.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ineligible, the in-form Alex Lacazette is likely to lead the attack. The former Lyon forward has scored six goals in his last six games. Aaron Ramsey scored in both legs of the quarter-final against CSKA Moscow, and is likely to partner Granit Xhaka in midfield. Jack Wilshere and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are carrying knocks, while Mohamed Elneny is definitely out.

Atletico keen to put old heartaches behind them

Having twice lost the Champions League final to their old foes Real Madrid in the last few seasons, Diego Simeone's Altetico have something to prove to the football world and to themselves. If they were to fail to win the Europa League from this position, it would further reinforce the belief that Los Colchoneros can't close the deal when it matters.
Simeone has recently drawn attention to the club's extraordinary progress under his guidance, but while it's hugely impressive that he has led the club to a La Liga title, a Copa del Rey and a Europa League, several big opportunities have now been missed. Simeone has committed to Atletico by extending his deal to 2020, and he now hopes to add to his legend.
Whilst Arsenal are desperate to win a European trophy for themselves and for the departing Wenger, Atleti have their own motivation, and they have taken this competition incredibly seriously since dropping down from the Champions League. A 1-0 defeat at a fired-up Sporting in the second leg of the quarter-final in Lisbon is the only blot on the UEL copybook so far, as they won the other five games in fine style.
Diego Costa is likely to miss the game with a thigh injury, while full-backs Juanfran and Felipe Luis are also missing.

Arsenal the favourites but it's a tight call

Arsenal's recent home form, and their impressive dismissal of Milan in the last 16, makes their price of 2.64 to win the first leg understandable. Atletico have lost four of their last six away games in all competitions, but they have proven themselves to be so adept at negotiating these difficult European ties in the last few years.
Whichever way you go, I'd advise using Draw No Bet, which will return your stake in the event of a draw. On that basis, you can back Arsenal at 1.85 and Atletico at 2.12.

Despite's Atleti's reputation, go for goals

The temptation is to think that Atleti will go to the Emirates and simply try to shut the game down, but with Arsenal well aware that they have to push hard for a first-leg win, there could be plenty of space for the likes of Antoine Griezmann (who has 18 goals in his last 22 games) to exploit on the counter.
Arsenal are capable of scoring even against a solid Atleti defence, and their last eight games have all featured three goals or more. I'll go for Over 2.5 Goals at 2.20.
Back Over 2.5 Goals at 2.20

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