Europa League semi-final first-legs Preview

Arsenal continue their hunt to win a first European trophy for Arsene Wenger before he steps down as they host Atletico Madrid in the first-leg of their Europa League semi-final.

Wenger has confirmed he will be stepping down at the end of the season, but in his 20+ years – The Gunners have never won a European title, so this could be an ideal way to sign off for the Frenchman and would also get Arsenal back in the Champions League.

“Is there a perfect goodbye? I don’t know. I just want to do as well as I can,” said Wenger.

“This team, it is quality. I have seen these guys challenged mentally, always respond in the right way.

“This group of players deserve something special. I want to do it for them, to achieve something for them.

“My biggest satisfaction would be to do it with this group of players. I have seen what they have done this season, if we did win it, they would deserve it.”

Atletico are firm favourites to lift the Europa League and Diego Simeone is confident, and he says his side is relishing these big matches.

“There’s pressure, because this is the best bit. These are the games that we’ve worked to be in,” he said.

The other semi-final sees Marseille tackle Red Bull Salzburg – and the two already know each other well a they met in the group stages – at the point their game in France ended goalless whilst Salzburg won 1-0 in Austria.

Salzburg boss Marco Rose is looking for his side to produce something ‘special’ in the South of France.

“We need a special performance for that, as Olympique (Marseille) don’t only have top players in their squad, but they have also developed extremely well as a team recently,” he said.

Marseille boss Rudi Garcia says he won’t be changing Marseille’s free-flowing style.

“We expect a similar atmosphere to the quarter-final against Leipzig,” he said.

“We’ve shown that we can concede goals and still win games, but the aim is to win, ideally without conceding but we have to bear in mind that there is a second leg to come at their place.”

See below for a preview on the game, including predictions from former England, Crystal Palace and Tottenham midfielder Andy Gray and our own Football Insider Graeme Bailey and BoyleSports’s Lawrence Lyons.

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Arsenal 20:05 Atletico Madrid
The Emirates
First leg

TEAM NEWS: Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Petr Cech are all available for Arsenal, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mohamed Elneny and Santi Cazorla are sidelined. Diego Costa has been included in the squad, but remains a doubt. Juanfran will miss the game.
KEY FACT: This is the first meeting between these two sides
MATCH ODDS: Arsenal 31/20 Draw 9/4 Atletico 19/10
BoyleSports Pick: Arsenal to win by one goal @3/1 
ANDY SAYS: I can see Arsenal winning here, be close but I can see a narrow victory…2-1
GRAEME SAYS: I think Arsenal will get something, but I don’t think they will win…1-1
FOOTBALLIndex – One to follow: Mesut Ozil can be a huge player, so could still be good value

Marseille 20:05 Red Bull Salzburg
Stade Velodrome
First leg

TEAM NEWS: Marseille are without Hiroki Sakai, Steve Mandanda and Boubacar Kamara. Diadie Samassekou is available again after returning from European suspension.
KEY FACT: 25th meeting between these two clubs – most-played UEFA competition tie
MATCH ODDS: Marseille 4/6 Draw 3/1 Salzburg 9/2
BoyleSports Pick: Marseille to win and over 2.5 goals @13/10 
ANDY SAYS: Marseille at home are tough to beat, and I don’t see them losing this…2-0
GRAEME SAYS: Good game this one, real class and I can see Real just edging it, but be close…2-1
FOOTBALLIndex – One to follow: Florian Thauvin is on fire, and worth investing in

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