Arsenal are in Spain on Thursday night as they take on Valencia in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final. The Gunners will be trying to put the finishing touches on the job they have already done as they try to make the final which takes place in Baku, Azerbaijan at the end of this month.
Valencia will be kicking themselves as they took the lead just 11 minutes into the first leg at the Emirates last week, securing what should have been a crucial away goal in the process. However, the Spanish side went on to lose 3-1, giving away a third in the 90th minute which has seriously damaged their chances.
Unai Emery is a mastermind when it comes to the Europa League, having won it three times in succession during his time at Sevilla – so he should show his vast experience and know-how whilst guiding Arsenal to the final with no issues. Valencia are no pushovers though and have won their last eight on the spin at home in this competition. However, if Arsenal can find the all-important away goal, then there should only be one outcome in terms of who qualifies and has a crack at the trophy in the Baku.
For Arsenal, this competition represents their only chance of making it into next season’s UEFA Champions League. The Gunners have been in dreadful form domestically of late, having only taken one point from their last four games, a run which has literally destroyed any chance they had of finishing within the top four.
Valencia will still have hope of being part of Europe’s top competition next season, even if they are knocked out by Arsenal on Thursday night. The Spaniards are sat 5th in La Liga, three points behind Getafe in fourth with a couple of games to go, so it’s not all over for them yet domestically.
Francis Coquelin should return on Thursday night after missing the first leg through suspension, and disappointingly, missing out on a return to his old stomping ground. Geoffrey Kondogbia and Denis Cheryshev are the only players ruled out for the home side.
Arsenal have four players missing through injury in Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey. The latter two have already played their last games for the club and they will both be moving on in the summer. It’s disappointing for Ramsey to be absent from this Europa League run after 11 years with the Gunners, and you could see the disappointment and emotion on his face as he said his goodbyes at the weekend’s game vs Brighton at the Emirates.
Arsenal hold all the cards going into the second leg and they pressure lays firmly with Valencia. Having bagged three important goals during the first encounter, Unai Emery may opt to play one of Lacazette or Aubameyang rather than both as there’s no emphasis for the Gunners to score on Thursday night. Although, an away goal would be huge and it’d almost certainly put the tie to bed.
I’m liking the look of Both Teams to Score as my favourite bet for this game at 1.57. Valencia have managed to score in their last eight home games in the Europa League and they simply must throw caution to the wind on Thursday night. The Gunners will be given the chance to pick the home side off as they throw players forward, and they may be desperate for an early away goal to kill the tie.
If Lacazette is chosen as the man to lead the line for Arsenal on Thursday, then it’s worth a look at him scoring anytime at 2.80. The Frenchman has scored four goals in eight European appearances this season and was instrumental during the first leg, bagging himself a brace.
Both teams to score @ 1.57
Over 2.5 goals @ 1.57
Lacazette to score anytime @ 2.80