International

Gunners ready for Atletico test

2018-04-26 10:50
Mesut Ozil (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Arsenal continue their bid for European success in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Diego Simeone's in-form Atletico Madrid on Thursday.

Arsene Wenger's side occupy sixth place in the Premier League, with Europa League glory their only chance of claiming a spot in the Champions League next season.

The Gunners emerged from four successive defeats to win six in a row. They were held by CSKA in Russia but progressed regardless, ahead of losing 2-1 to Newcastle and beating West Ham 4-1 last time out.

Atletico, meanwhile, are enjoying an exceptional La Liga season, in second place behind Barcelona and ahead of Real Madrid.

They have been wobbling slightly of late, after a sensational run of 13 wins from 15 games before drawing two losing two and winning one, in all competitions. Simeone's side come into this game having drawn 0-0 with Real Betis, after progressing to the semis by seeing off Sporting.

Ahead of the game, Wenger said: "It would really feel like an anti-climax [if Arsenal did not win the competition]. That’s why we want to give our absolute all to have a chance of going to the final.

“This group of players deserves something special. I want to do it for them, to achieve something with them because I feel they have a special mental quality. My biggest satisfaction would be to be successful together with the group of players that I have. I’ve seen them behave the whole season and they deserve it.

Simeone said: "We're going to face a tough team. Arsenal have an important history in Europe. Both clubs want to play the final."

He added: "We're going to play in a marvelous stadium. Their fans are going to be 100 percent dedicated to the team."

In team news, Diego Costa is a hamstring doubt for Atletico while Juanfran is definitely out because of his hamstring injury.

Mohamed Elneny will miss the rest of the season for Arsenal while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is sidelined and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied.

Kick-off is at 21:05 (SA time).

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