UEFA Europa League – Arsenal-Atlético – Arsenal v Atlético background
Arsenal and Atlético Madrid will meet competitively for the first time in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League, in the first leg of a much-anticipated contest between clubs from the capital cities of England and Spain. The fixture is the 102nd and final European home game for Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who announced on 20 April that he will be stepping down from his position at the end of the season after almost 22 years in charge.
• Both Arsenal and Atlético survived second-leg scares in the quarter-finals, the Gunners eventually prevailing 6-3 on aggregate against CSKA Moskva (4-1 home, 2-2 away after trailing 0-2) and Los Colchoneros edging Iberian rivals Sporting CP 2-1 over the two legs (2-0 home, 0-1 away).
• Arsenal, the lone English representatives in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase, won four of their six autumn encounters to top Group H before knocking out European debutants Östersund in the round of 32 then winning both legs against AC Milan – 2-0 in Italy and 3-1 in London.
• Having crossed over to the UEFA Europa League after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group, Atlético made light work of both Danish champions FC København in the round of 32 and Russian league leaders Lokomotiv Moskva in the round of 16, winning all four matches.
• Arsenal and Atlético have never met in UEFA competition, though the Gunners did beat their Spanish opponents 2-1 at home in the 2009 pre-season Emirates Cup.
• The Gunners have won only ten of their 31 UEFA competition matches against teams from Spain, losing 14. At home their record in 14 encounters is W8 D3 L3, the most recent a 2-0 defeat against Barcelona in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg.
• The London club have won five of their nine two-legged UEFA ties with Liga opposition but have lost each of the last three – all to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League. Their one previous semi-final against Spanish opponents did end in success, a 1-0 aggregate win over Villarreal in 2005/06 (1-0 home, 0-0 away) taking them into their first – and as yet only – European Cup/UEFA Champions League final.
• Atlético’s record in 27 matches against English clubs is W10 D11 L6, and they have been victorious in seven of their nine two-legged knockout contests, including each of the last three; only Derby County (1974/75 UEFA Cup) and Bolton Wanderers (2007/08 UEFA Cup) have eliminated them. On English soil, however, they have won just twice in 12 visits, losing four times.
• The Madrid side have drawn 1-1 on each of their last two visits to England – against Leicester City in last season’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final and at Chelsea in this season’s group stage, Saúl Ñíguez scoring Atlético’s goal in both matches.
• The two trips prior to those games were both for European semi-final second legs and yielded positive outcomes – a 2-1 extra-time defeat at Liverpool in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League bringing an away-goals victory after a 1-0 home win, and a 3-1 win at Chelsea, which included a Diego Costa penalty, taking Diego Simeone’s side through to the 2014 UEFA Champions League final after a 0-0 draw in Madrid.
• Arsenal’s eight-match unbeaten home run in UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League matches (W6 D2) came to an end in the round of 32 with a 2-1 defeat by Östersund, but they bounced back by beating Milan 3-1 and CSKA 4-1 in the next two rounds.
• Prior to that victory over the Rossoneri the Gunners had lost each of their previous six European home games in the spring, conceding 17 goals. They have not kept a clean sheet in the last eight.
• Arsenal have prolonged their European campaign into the spring for the 19th successive year – all under Wenger’s management.
• Arsenal are making their UEFA Europa League debut this season. Their last European campaign outside the UEFA Champions League was the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup, which ended with a penalty shoot-out defeat in the final against Galatasaray. They overcame French side Lens in that season’s semi-final, winning 1-0 at home and 2-1 away.
• The Gunners’ record in six UEFA competition semi-final ties is W5 L1, prevailing in each of the first five – against Juventus (1979/80, 1-1 home, 1-0 away), Paris Saint-Germain (1993/94, 1-1 away, 1-0 home) and Sampdoria (1994/95, 3-2 home, 2-3 away, won on penalties) in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, then Lens and Villarreal – before Manchester United ousted them in the last four of the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League (0-1 away, 1-3 home). They have therefore never lost a semi-final to foreign opposition.
• Atlético were unbeaten on their European travels this season until their 1-0 quarter-final second-leg defeat at Sporting, three draws in the UEFA Champions League preceding two wins in the UEFA Europa League.
• The Madrid club went into that match in Lisbon on a run of seven successive away wins in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase. Indeed, the loss to Sporting was only their second in 12 such fixtures (W8 D2), the other that 2009/10 semi-final defeat against Liverpool. They were also victorious on neutral territory in the finals of 2010 (Hamburg) and 2012 (Bucharest).
• UEFA Europa League victors in 2010 and 2012, Atlético are making their first appearance in the competition in five years. Since then Diego Simeone’s side have appeared in two UEFA Champions League finals and reached the quarter-finals and semi-finals in two other seasons.
• Successful in both of their previous UEFA Europa League semi-finals, against Liverpool in 2009/10 and Valencia in 2011/12 (4-2 home, 1-0 away), Atlético’s overall record in 14 UEFA competition semi-final ties is W8 L6. They had won four in a row before going down to city rivals Real Madrid in last season’s UEFA Champions League (0-3 away, 2-1 home).
• Atlético have won only four of their 14 away legs in UEFA semi-finals, the most recent success coming in London four years ago with that 3-1 second-leg win at Chelsea.
• Atlético finished third in the Spanish Liga last season, and this is only the second time in eight attempts that they have failed to progress beyond the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. However, on the only other occasion, in 2009/10, they went on to win the UEFA Europa League.
Links and trivia
• Arsenal’s Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan was a UEFA Europa League winner with Manchester United last season.
• Atlético pair Vitolo and Kevin Gameiro both won the UEFA Europa League three seasons running with Sevilla (2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16).
• Filipe Luís, Gabi, Diego Godín, Juanfran, Koke and Saúl were all at Atlético when the club won the trophy under Simeone in 2011/12.
• Fernando Torres was a UEFA Europa League winner with Chelsea in 2012/13, a year after he won the UEFA Champions League with the same club.
• Wenger’s side have more wins in the UEFA Europa League this season (eight) than any other club and are also the competition’s top scorers with 29 goals – eight shy of FC Porto’s record haul in 2010/11. They have also had more goal attempts than any other side (162) while midfielder Mohamed Elneny has completed more passes (710) than any other player.
• Atlético are the only UEFA Europa League (or UEFA Cup) winners in the semi-finals. They are also the only side among the final four to have previously played in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.
• Antoine Griezmann’s goal in the first leg of the quarter-final against Sporting was the 500th scored by a Spanish club in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final. The second leg was the 300th outing in the competition proper for a team from Spain. Both figures are records for a single nation.
• Mesut Özil played 105 times in the Spanish Liga for Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013, scoring 19 goals. He faced Atlético eight times (W7 L1) and scored four goals against Los Rojiblancos.
• Nacho Monreal played 127 league matches for Osasuna and 45 for Málaga during his time in Spain. He faced Atlético 11 times (W3 D2 L6), scoring an own goal in Osasuna’s 2-1 defeat in June 2007 and receiving a red card in the Pamplona club’s 3-0 loss in November 2010.
• Shkodran Mustafi made 64 Liga appearances for Valencia between 2014 and 2016, scoring six times. He faced Atlético on four occasions (W1 D1 L2), scoring in a 1-1 draw in March 2015.
• Simeone faced Arsenal twice as a player with Lazio in the first group stage of the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League (0-2 away, 1-1 home).
• Diego Costa made 89 Premier League appearances for Chelsea between 2014 and 2017, scoring 52 goals and winning the title in 2016/17. He faced Arsenal five times in the league, scoring twice. He also found the net against the Gunners on his final Chelsea appearance – in the 2017 FA Cup final, which Arsenal won 2-1.
• Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette are French international team-mates of Atlético’s Gameiro, Griezmann and Lucas Hernández.
• Arsenal’s Monreal and Héctor Bellerín and the Atlético quartet of Koke, Saúl, Vitolo and Diego Costa are all Spanish internationals.
• Arsène Wenger has been the Arsenal manager since 1996, leading the Gunners to three English titles, a record seven FA Cup wins and the 2006 UEFA Champions League final. A player of modest repute, he made his name as a coach with Nancy and Monaco in his native France before moving to Japan for a brief spell with Nagoya Grampus 8. He is the longest serving manager in the Premier League.
• Diego Simeone has been the Atlético coach since December 2011, and has added five trophies to the club’s collection, including the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League, as well as steering the Madrid club to the UEFA Champions League finals of 2014 and 2016. The combative ex-Argentina midfielder also had two spells at Atlético as a player, winning the Spanish double in 1995/96.