Arsenal will look to put aside their awful form in the domestic competitions as they host Valencia in the first leg of the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. Both teams have struggled in their respective leagues, of late, but have done well in Europe so far, making this an evenly contested fixture.
The Gunners have won just once in their last five meetings against Valencia. On the other hand, the La Liga giants have secured two wins in the last three matches against the North London side.
After an embarrassing defeat to Leicester City at the weekend, Unai Emery is likely to revert to a three at the back formation. In midfield, Aaron Ramsey’s absence will be a huge blow. But, we expect Mesut Ozil to deputise for the injured Welshman in the attacking midfield role, where he will look to provide the creative spark in the Arsenal attack.
Marcelino, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to stick to his classic 4-4-2 formation, despite running the risk of being outnumbered in midfield. The offensive duo of Rodrigo Moreno and Santi Mina will both look to exploit Arsenal’s leaky defence that has conceded nine goals in the last three matches.
Ramsey, as mentioned earlier, is out with a hamstring problem. He joins Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck in Arsenal’s list of long-term injuries. Both Ozil and Nacho Monreal, meanwhile, will face a late fitness test.
Arsenal Predicted XI:
Cech; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Ozil; Lacazette.
Geoffrey Kondogbia and Denis Cheryshev will continue their spell on the sidelines while former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin is suspended. The Frenchman is likely to be deputised by Carlos Soler in midfield.
Valencia Predicted XI:
Neto; Wass, Garay, Paulista, Gaya; Torres, Soler, Parejo, Guedes; Moreno, Mina.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles will play a crucial role in the right wing-back slot, where his tendency to go forward could be restricted by Valencia’s attacking sensation Goncalo Guedes. The defensive trifecta of Sokratis, Monreal and Koscielny will also be integral as the Gunners look to avoid conceding any away goals this midweek.
Valencia will heavily rely on the services of Dani Parejo in midfield not only in circulating possession all over the pitch but also in terms of attacking productivity. The 30-year-old has been already involved in 17 goals this season, and his performance against the likes of Xhaka and Torreira could shape Valencia’s fate in this contest.
Arsenal win – 10/11
Draw – 13/5
Valencia win – 14-5
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