Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
A tie that already looked like being an intriguing one when the draw was made has taken on added significant since, as it was announced that Arsene Wenger will be leaving Arsenal at the end of this season.
Wenger has never won a major European trophy during his long reign at the Emirates – what a story it would be if the Frenchman were to win the Europa League in his final game in charge of the Gunners.
This is the first time these clubs have met in European competition and it promises to be a tight, cagey affair despite the fact that Arsenal have scored the most goals in the competition so far this season (29) and Atletico have scored 15 times in six games since they entered the competition.
The Gunners have scored at least three times in their last six home games in all competitions, but the Spanish side will represent a much tougher challenge. Atletico were held 0-0 at home by Real Betis – who had the best opportunities to break the deadlock – at the weekend, but Diego Simeone rested a number of key players- including Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann – and Betis went into the match having won their last six games.
Atletico currently sit second in La Liga and have kept 11 clean sheets on the spin at home in all competitions. Arsenal cannot afford to lose the first leg and I do not think Arsene Wenger will play quite as attacking a side as the one who faced West Ham on Sunday. A clean sheet would give the Gunners every chance of reaching the final in Lyon next month.
Tip: Match to finish 0-0 7/1
Just a word on Arsene Wenger who announced his retirement last week. Wenger was a pioneer who changed the footballing landscape forever. He built a dynasty at Highbury/the Emirates that will never be forgotten and he will always be remembered as being one of English football’s greatest ever managers.
Your innings well played sir.
Understandably, there has now been more talk about who will replace Wegner at the helm in North London. Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique heads at market at 5/2 while Carlo Ancellotti, second favourite at 5/1 certainly has the pedigree to be a success at the Emirates.