Valencia vs Arsenal preview: Unai Emery's side aim to reach Europa League final
Follow the Europa League semi-final second leg with our live blog on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app
Last Updated: 08/05/19 11:33pm
Arsenal will be looking to defend a 3-1 lead when they face Valencia in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday.
The Gunners put themselves in a strong position after the first leg at the Emirates thanks to two goals from Alexandre Lacazette and an injury-time strike from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
They are looking to reach their first European final since 2005/06, when they lost in the Champions League final to Barcelona. If Arsenal do make the final they will face either Chelsea or Eintracht Frankfurt in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 29.
"Our idea is to play the match thinking to win," said Gunners boss Unai Emery, who won the Europa League three seasons in a row with Sevilla from 2014-16.
"They have attacking players with big qualities, combinations and the possibility to score here tomorrow. Our idea is to do both: be defensively strong and offensively, take our chances.
"Above all, I think it depends how we are on the pitch tomorrow. The 90 minutes can be long and there can be moments for our attack and their attack. We need to be solid and most importantly control the match."
Winning the Europa League looks to be Arsenal's only chance of making next season's Champions League after they drew 1-1 with Brighton on Sunday.
To make the top four in the Premier League, Arsenal would need to win at Burnley on the final day, Tottenham to lose to Everton, and an unlikely eight-goal swing.
Valencia continued their top-four challenge in La Liga with a 6-2 victory over Huesca on Sunday.
Youngsters Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock have both been included in Arsenal's squad.
Aaron Ramsey, Denis Suarez, Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck and Rob Holding are out.
- Five of the previous 28 teams to lose the first leg of a UEFA Cup/Europa League semi-final by 2+ goals have ended up progressing, most recently Espanyol against Club Brugge in 1987-88.
- Arsenal have never been knocked out of a European tie in which they won the first leg by two or more goals, progressing from all 27 previously.
- Valencia are looking to reach their first major European final since the 2004 UEFA Cup, when they beat Marseille 2-0 under Rafael Benitez.
- Arsenal's last appearances in a European final was in 2006, losing the Champions League showpiece against Barcelona. The Gunners have lost each of the last three major European finals they've reached (1995 Cup Winners Cup, 2000 UEFA Cup, 2006 Champions League).
- Valencia have won both of their two previous home games against Arsenal, beating them 1-0 in the 2000-01 Champions League quarter-final and 2-1 in the 2002-03 Champions League second group stage.
- Arsenal have lost their last four away games against Spanish opponents, and are winless in their last seven such games (D2 L5) since a 1-0 win at Real Madrid in February 2006.
- Valencia have lost just one of their last 21 home games in all competitions (W15 D5), though it was their last such game against Eibar in La Liga (0-1).
- Including finals, Arsenal manager Unai Emery has won his last 18 Europa League knockout ties, last being eliminated from the competition in the 2011-12 semi-finals with Valencia.
- Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette has scored eight goals in his last 10 Europa League knockout stage games.
Charlie Nicholas prediction
Sometimes they are not my beloved Arsenal - they are my angry Arsenal at the moment! This is a tremendous advantage Arsenal have right now. Valencia have never been a team that score a lot of goals, but they do not tend to let them in, which makes the win at the Emirates the more remarkable. Valencia's away goal scares me, though. I am on edge again here because I don't know how Unai Emery goes about setting up his defence.
The only way I can see Arsenal getting through this is if they go with a back five. Two will protect in the middle, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette should start up front. It doesn't matter who plays next weekend, so get those two in the team. I hope Lacazette gets us through again.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: Valencia 2-1 Arsenal (15/2 with Sky Bet)
When is the Europa League final?
The Europa League final, the 10th in its current format and 48th overall of Europe's second-tier competition, will take place on May 29, 2019 at the Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan.
Kick-off is at 8pm (BST), 9pm (CEST).