Atletico Madrid's counter-attack can trouble Arsenal, says Terry Gibson
By Terry Gibson
Last Updated: 26/04/18 8:20am
Arsenal will have to be wary of Atletico Madrid's counter-attacking threat when the two teams meet in their Europa League semi-final first leg at the Emirates on Thursday, says Terry Gibson.
Arsenal's reward for comprehensively beating CSKA Moscow in the quarter-finals was to be drawn against Atletico - a club that has been more accustomed to reaching the latter stages of the Champions League than the Europa League over the past five seasons.
Diego Simeone's side are favourites to win the competition and Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Gibson stressed the need for Arsenal to be controlled in possession to keep Atletico's dangerous attacking players quiet.
Speaking on the latest La Liga weekly podcast, Gibson said: "Whereas there will be open and entertaining games between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and Liverpool and Roma (in the Champions League), I'm not so sure there will be at the Emirates.
"I think they [Atletico] will try and nullify Arsenal's threat first and foremost, they even did it against [Real] Betis, they were quite happy to settle into the game in defensive mode and allow them possession.
"That will be the same Atletico we see on Thursday but, of course, they have the quality and swift counter-attacking play to hurt Arsenal - Kevin Gameiro was on the bench as well last night which suggests he might play alongside Antoine Griezmann.
"Arsenal will have to be aware of not giving the ball away cheaply due to the threat of Atletico Madrid; when they win the ball back quickly with the pace they've got in attack. So I wouldn't throw everything at it if I was Arsenal because Atletico are more than capable of picking them off and getting an away goal."
Atletico Madrid have significant pedigree in European competition having finished as runners-up in the Champions League in 2014 and 2016, as well as winning the Europa League in 2010 and 2012.
Given their recent record in continental competition and the quality of Simeone's squad, Atletico are being tipped to end Arsenal's run in the competition, but Gibson insisted that they head into Thursday's game in indifferent form.
"I'm slightly concerned about Atletico. A week or so ago they were in excellent form when they beat Levante 3-0 but then they were beaten by Real Sociedad midweek and looked a little bit stale against Betis," he said.
"I guess a reason why they didn't look at their best against Betis at the weekend was because Antoine Griezmann was on the bench, Koke was on the bench, Diego Godin was on the bench.
"Diego Simeone, quite rightly, I think, took the opportunity to rest some of the players going into the game against Arsenal on Thursday."
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