Europa League master Emery looks to inspire Gunners to final


Unai Emery will hope to lead his Arsenal side into the final of the Europa League as they take on Valencia in the first-leg of the semi-finals of the competition at the Emirates.

The Spaniard is known for his success in the Europa League with Sevilla and knowns Thursday’s opponents very well from his own time there.

Emery was at the Valencia helm for four years between 2008 and 2012, reaching the quarter-final in 2009/10 and the semi-final in 2011/12 under the 47-year-old’s tutelage. There are plenty more links between the two teams as Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel and Francis Coquelin all line up against their former clubs.

Coquelin will be unable to return to the Emirates however, after the midfielder picked up his third booking and consequently a suspension in Valencia’s quarter-final victory. Former teammate Aaron Ramsey will also be absent as a hamstring injury looks set to end his Arsenal career, the Welshman off to Juventus this summer upon the expiration of his contract.

Mesut Özil and Nacho Monreal, who both have experience facing Valencia from their time in Spain, are set to be brought back into the eleven whilst Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny are also expected to start.

Alongside the absence of Frenchman Coquelin for the visitors, fellow midfield powerhouse Geoffrey Kondogbia and Russian World Cup star Denis Cheryshev remain unavailable for Los Che.

Valencia hold the superior record over the Gunners when they have faced off in the past, most recently defeating an Arsene Wenger Arsenal side 2-1 to progress through to the quarter-finals of the 2002/03 Champions League.

The Emirates crowd will be eager to see a different result to the same stage of the competition last season against Atletico Madrid as after a 1-1 in north London, Diego Simeone’s team secured a 1-0 win to progress to the final.

Emery and Valencia boss Marcelino have plenty of experience of each other due to their time in La Liga together. Arsenal’s boss shades the record with seven wins to Marcelino’s five.

Neither side are arriving into the fixture in good form, the hosts having lost their last three Premier League fixtures to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester. Valencia also lost 1-0 to Eibar in their most recent fixture as both teams remain outside of the Champions League qualification brackets in their respective leagues.

So far this campaign, Arsenal have overcome challenges from BATE, Rennes and Napoli in the knock-out rounds and have only lost once at home in the their last two seasons of Europa League participation.

Valencia, on the other hand, secured Champions League football for this season and were unlucky to finish third behind Juventus and Manchester United in Group H. They have thrived since dropping down into the Europa League and have defeated Celtic, Krasnodar and Villarreal to set up the tie with the Londoners.

The tie seems evenly poised with both sets of fans eager for their side to progress to a European final and with qualification for the Champions League not secured through their league positions, there’s more at stake come Thursday evening.


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