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Arsene Wenger reveals Arsenal’s plan to stop former Chelsea nemesis Diego Costa

Costa missed the first leg but is expected to play on Thursday night

Peter Rutzler
Thursday 03 May 2018 12:10 BST
Costa has punished Arsenal many times in the past
Costa has punished Arsenal many times in the past (Getty Images)

Arsene Wenger has revealed how he will stop familiar foe Diego Costa from ruining his fairy-tale ending to his Arsenal ‘love story’.

After missing the first leg through injury, the former Chelsea striker returns on Thursday for Atletico to face his old rivals in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final.

Costa became pariah number-one at the Emirates following a series of combustible displays, including a memorable clash in 2015 that saw Costa manage to get Gabriel Paulista sent off using some trademark dirty tricks.

Wenger, who announced he would be leaving his north London post at the end of the season, is hoping to lift his first European title with the Gunners after 22 years in charge of the club and he revealed how he plans to stop Costa from spoiling his planned grand finale.

“In history, he has shown he can make the difference,” said Wenger. “He was very successful in England. Our job is to keep him quiet and the way to do that is to play more in their half.

“My target is to get to 251 games [by reaching the final]. I believe we come to a place with a good history in Europe but we know exactly what we need to do. Our way to behave is clear and that is an advantage.”

Costa was only named on the bench by Coach Diego Simeone for the first leg after battling to be fit following a hamstring injury.

After a troubling departure from Stamford Bridge earlier this season, Costa is yet to rekindle the prolific form that made him a fan favourite with the Blues and a key part of last year’s title winning side.

But former Blues midfielder Frank Lampard believes Costa’s ‘winning mentality’ gives Atletico an edge over an Arsenal side that lacks his competitive qualities.

“Arsenal’s task of beating Atletico Madrid was already tough, but it’s a lot harder with Diego Costa now up against them,” Lampard wrote in the Evening Standard. “Costa is exactly the kind of personality missing from Arsenal’s dressing room, someone with that winning mentality.

“The English game has missed him this season after he rejoined Atletico from Chelsea. He is a big player, a big character. Love him or hate him, you have to appreciate that kind of player.”

Arsenal surrendered a slender 1-0 advantage in the first leg after Alexandre Lacazette gave the hosts a second-half lead. Calamitous defending from Laurent Koscielny and an unfortunate slip from Shkodran Mustafi allowed Antoine Griezmann to snatch an all-important away goal.

The Frenchman’s late strike means the Gunners must score tonight at the Wanda Metropolitano, a ground where Atleti have only conceded four times all season and Simeone is planning to make life difficult for the Gunners.

“Maybe they will have more anxiety as they need to score,” the Argentine said. “We will try to be well organised. We will try to be direct and blunt and live every second to the maximum intensity knowing how important each ball is advantage.”

“We need positive energy and [for] the stadium to explode. We have a huge will to get to the final.”

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