Europa League: Arsenal in nightmare semi-final draw against Atletico Madrid as Marseille get Red Bull Salzburg

First leg of semi-finals will be played on Thursday 26 April with the return tie on Thursday 3 May

Jack de Menezes
Friday 13 April 2018 10:59
Arsene Wenger hoped Arsenal would avoid Atletico Madrid
Arsene Wenger hoped Arsenal would avoid Atletico Madrid

Arsenal have been drawn against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals, with the winner set to play either Marseille or Red Bull Salzburg in the final.

The draw is the toughest one that Arsenal could have faced, with the Liga side currently ranked third by Uefa's official club coefficients behind only Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Having reached the semi-finals of last year's Champions League after being knocked out by eventual winners Real, Diego Simeone's side have a proven pedigree in Europe and will head into the two-leg affair as overwhelming favourites.

The first leg is due to be played at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday 26 April, with the return leg at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on Thursday 3 May.

Speaking after Thursday's match in Moscow, manager Arsene Wenger admitted he would prefer to avoid Atletico given they are the strongest side on paper left in the competition.

"Looking at all the results as a whole picture in Europe this week, you would say that teams have become closer and the games are very open and everything is possible in every single game," Wenger said.

"Everybody speaks about Atletico Madrid that they look the strongest team on paper, but you must say when you look at the results that Salzburg have done again... I am from France and Marseille are in there as well and that is always a difficult place to go... maybe it is better that I don't wish for anybody."

Atletico progressed at the expense of Sporting Lisbon despite suffering a 1-0 defeat in Portugal on Thursday evening.

Danny Welbeck helped Arsenal beat CSKA Moscow to reach the semi-finals

Diego Simeone's side are currently second in the La Liga table behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

The other semi-final will be between Ligue 1 side Marseille and Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg, who advanced following fine comeback wins over RB Leipzig and Lazio respectively on Thgursday night.

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