Valencia and Arsenal are set to serve up an open contest in their Europa League second leg clash at the Estadio Mestalla on Thursday.
The Gunners head into the match with a 3-1 advantage from the first leg. This was courtesy a brace from Alexandre Lacazette and another from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Opinion is currently divided over the success of Unai Emery’s first year in charge at Arsenal. It may take lifting the Europa League trophy for the Spaniard to win over any critics at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal had been in a position where achieving Champions League football through the Premier League was in their own hands. However, one point from four matches has led to the Gunners being unlikely to achieve a top-four position.
That run of form has placed increased priority on winning this competition. Arsenal are the best placed out of the remaining four teams in the tournament to reach the final in Baku.
Valencia will fancy their chances of getting the better of the Gunners in Spain, but Arsenal showed against Napoli in the quarter-finals that they are capable of defending a lead away from home. We feel that the visitors will get on the scoresheet, and that could prove decisive come the full-time whistle.
Marcelino García Toral deserves credit for getting Valencia into a position where they could qualify for next season’s Champions League and win the Europa League, but Los Che must perform over their next three games to achieve one of those targets.
Defeats to Atletico Madrid and Eibar in La Liga were followed by the setback in North London last Thursday. It has put Marcelino’s squad on the back foot ahead of welcoming the Premier League club.
Valencia returned to winning ways at the weekend with a 6-2 triumph at struggling Huesca, but it has done little to reassure supporters that their side can overturn a deficit under pressure.
Arsenal suffered defeats at BATE Borisov and Rennes during the early knockout rounds. However, the 1-0 win away at Napoli in the last eight has proven that the North London outfit can produce big performances on the road.
The English side found themselves making the trip to Spain at this stage of last season’s competition, but a 1-0 setback at Atletico Madrid left the club missing out on another European final.
Much of this squad was present for the disappointment at the Wanda Metropolitano, and Emery will hope that lessons have been learned from that experience.
Thursday’s fixture will represent the seventh competitive meeting between the clubs, with Valencia registering three wins including the 1980 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in comparison to two victories for Arsenal.
The Gunners were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals in 2001 before being bested by Valencia again in 2003.
The Spaniards have a major first leg deficit to overturn and with both teams expected to adopt an attacking style of play, an outcome of over 2.5 goals is predicted which BetBiga is offering some great odds on.
In truth, this is a tricky game to assess. It will be the first time this season that Valencia have trailed going into the second leg. Given that some of their home efforts have been weak when they’ve held an advantage, it’s not terribly difficult to envisage them struggling.
Furthermore, Arsenal have lost two of their three away matches since reaching the knockout stages, though each of those defeats came in the first leg. In contrast, once they held the lead ahead of going away to Napoli in the last round, Emery’s men were solid and delivered a professional performance.
On the basis that the Gunners thrived when in a similar position in Naples, it’s easy to feel that Thursday’s visitors have been slightly underestimated by the early market. At what appears to be a generous price at BetBiga, ‘Arsenal Draw No Bet’ gets the nod.
Arsenal have one foot in the final – and while they have been poor travellers, a two-goal cushion should be enough to see them through.
SCORELINE: Valencia 2-1 Arsenal