It’s been only 12 days since Arsenal landed an apparent nightmare draw against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semifinals, but the events since have the fans dreaming of an appearance in the final.
Thursday’s meeting between the sides at the Emirates Stadium (3:05 p.m ET kick-off) has swung in the hosts’ favor with the bookies (Arsenal +168, Atletico +198, Draw +225) due to a number of contributing factors.
Chief among them has been the surprise announcement that longtime Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will leave the Londoners at the end of the season — a decision that has even the Frenchman’s most loyal supporters feeling a sense of relief. Supporters are now suddenly optimistic for the future; but first and foremost, they will be desperate for the players to give their legendary manager a fitting send-off. It would be hard for any to begrudge Wenger a trophy in his final match in charge.
Atletico still stand in the way of that opportunity of course, but Diego Simeone’s side are suffering from a dip in form and morale, and not for the first time this season. The beginning of the Spanish outfit’s campaign was littered with too many draws, but they overcame a sluggish start to rebuild an unlikely title bid ahead of a huge clash with Barcelona at the start of March.
Unfortunately for Atleti, that defeat at Camp Nou has really taken the wind out of their sails, as they have now won just one of their last five games in total, and just one of six on the road.