Advantage to Arsenal as they head to Naples in pursue of a semi-final space


Napoli host Arsenal at the San Paolo for only the second time in the club’s history, the winner will progress to semi-finals and face either Villarreal or Valencia.

The Gunners have taken a 2-0 advantage to Italy as they aim for their first ever Semi-Final in the Europa League.

Aaron Ramsey gave Arsenal the lead while Lucas Torreira’s shot was deflected in by Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. Stand in goalie Alex Meret helped his side keep the score from getting any higher, something that could be huge going into the second leg.

As for the hosts, they are aiming to get to the last four of the European competition since the 2-1 aggregate loss to Ukrainian side Dnipro. A worrying fact for the Italian side is they have been eliminated the past eight times that they’ve lost the first leg of a European knockout match.

The last time that Carlo Ancelotti’s side were able to fight back from a first leg loss was back in the 1988-89 UEFA Cup quarter-final against Juventus. They lost 2-0 away to the Turin based side while, while they won 3-0 to progress to the semis.

That year Napoli won the trophy after beating VfB Stuttgart, that is the last and only time that the Italian side have won the European trophy.

Earlier on in the season, Napoli won their fifth match out of seven home ties against teams in the Premier League. That game was against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool with the Italian side won 1-0 after Lorenzo Insigne’s 90th-minute strike.

Arsenal’s last away match in Italy was at the San Siro in the last 16 of the previous season’s Europa League, winning 2-0 against AC Milan. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey scored in that match which saw the English side progress and then get to the Semi-Finals last season where they eventually lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid.

Following a disappointing run of three games without a win Napoli managed to get a win beating Chievo Verona 3-1 away at the Marc’Antonio Bentegodi. Prior to that, the three games they failed to win were a 2-1 away loss to Empoli; a 1-1 draw with Genoa and that 2-0 loss to the gunners.

As for Arsenal they suffered a setback in their bid for Champions League football after losing 1-0 to Everton. They have won five of the last six matches including Manchester United and Stade Rennais F.C., with the later securing passage to this round.

Ancelotti laid out three key factors to Napoli’s success in the second leg:

“In three words? Courage, intelligence and passion.

“I haven’t seen much courage in the first half of the first leg. Intelligence? In the second half. We risked a little bit, but we did what we had to.

“We will put all our passion into [Thursday] with a lot of intensity because it will be a great chance for us. Our mentality has to be positive. I am sure all the atmosphere will help us with passion.

“We want the match to last for 90 minutes, and more if it is possible. This does not mean we have to score after 30, 10 or 15 minutes. We want to keep our chances alive by being smart and confident.

“We are the only Italian team left in Europe and we want it to be the same on Friday. If this isn’t the case it will only be because of the results and not because of our play. Napoli will play great. I think we can qualify.”

Emery has issued a statement that even an away goal wouldn’t guarantee progression to the semi-finals:

“Our mentality is to think, to prepare for the match, starting the game defending when we need to, but attacking when we have the ball and we have space to do that.

“Our first target is to win, and after, of course if we score, when you score playing matches like tomorrow’s match, we can take a good advantage maybe with this goal.

“But we know it’s going to be very difficult because they can score one goal, two goals. They can score more goals because they have a lot of attacking players with this quality.”

It is very likely that Napoli going to be without midfielder Amadou Diawara and Spain defender Raul Albiol. While the Napoli boss will have a selection headache as Arkadiusz Milik​ could beat Lorenzo Insigne as he was ineffective in the first leg.

Away side Arsenal will definitely be without Dennis Suarez, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck, the latter three are long term absentees.

There is good news however for the gunners faithful as midfielder Lucas Torreira has travelled his side to Naples.  The Uruguay international was substituted at half-time in his last match where they won 1-0 against Watford on Monday.

Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos may also return for Emery’s team after he returns to the squad following being suspended at Watford.

Polish international Milik​ is the top scorer for the Naples based side netting 20 goals in 40 matches for his side. He last scored in their 3-1 win over Verona last weekend.

As for Arsenal, striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been ever reliable in front of goal scoring 23 times for the English side. He has four goals in the Europa League so far this season.


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