he UEFA Europa League has entered into the semifinals. The two favorites were drawn together and the two underdogs were drawn together.
Arsene Wenger’s worst nightmare of the Europa League has just been turned to life. The Gunners will play Atletico Madrid in the semifinals. The two sides have never met before and are both on a quest for European glory. Atletico won the Europa League back in 2012 behind the heroics of former “best striker in the world” Radamel Falcao. Arsenal has never won the Champions League or Europa League and hasn’t been to a European final since 2006.
The concern for Arsenal is how they can play against a really solid team managed by Diego Simeone. Atletico Madrid once again has one of the best defenses in Europe. In 31 La Liga contests, Atleti has conceded only 15 goals. Arsenal has trouble against good defenses and this could pose a threat to their chances of making the final in Lyon.
The key for this tie isn’t just Antonie Griezmann running circles around Shkodran Mustafi. The x-factor is Diego Costa. Costa could be the downfall of Arsenal and the last thing people remember from Wenger’s time at the club. The punishingly, strong striker is the perfect player to play against Arsenal. He knows the defense from his days at Chelsea and his strength can overwhelm the Arsenal backline. Atletico should win this and make the final.
Leg 1 – April 26th – 3:05 pm EST – Emirates
Leg 2 – May 3rd – 3:05 pm EST – Metropolitano
Marseille and Salzburg will play in the second semifinal. Les Olympians from France have a chance to make the Europa League final for the first time since 2004. Red Bull Salzburg came in second at the 1993-94 UEFA Cup. Salzburg and Marseille met in the group stage earlier in this campaign. Salzburg won at home 1-0 and it was a 0-0 draw in Marseille.
Salzburg’s run has been incredible. They have beaten Real Sociedad, Borussia Dortmund, and Lazio. History could be made if Salzburg makes the final as an Austrian team has never won the Champions League or Europa League. This run of momentum could be enough to beat Marseille. They have Dimitri Payet though, the ultimate x-factor. Payet’s experience in big moments can take Marseille to the final. I believe it will. Marseille v Atletico final for me.