EUROPA LEAGUE: Arsenal v Valencia preview
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Arsenal face Valencia in the first-leg of the Europa League semi-final at the Emirates tonight, knowing that they need a response in their biggest game of the season after three defeats on the bounce.
The Gunners lost 3-2 to Crystal Palace, before being beating 3-1 by Wolves and 3-0 at Leicester, conceding three goals in three consecutive games for the first time since 1967.
With their chances of making the top four in tatters, the Europa League now takes on even more importance as Arsenal’s most likely route into next season’s UEFA Champions League.
They face a tough last-four tie against Valencia to make it to the final in Baku, with the Spanish side also chasing a place in Europe’s elite club competition.
Los Ches will be looking at the competiton as a viable way back into the Champions League, currently sitting sixth in La Liga, three points off the top four behind Getafe and Sevilla.
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Arsenal boss Unai Emery is aware of the threat Valencia pose, saying after defeat at Leicester: “We are going to think about Valencia in the Europa League. We have a big ambition in this competition. It’s a semi-final and it’s going to be difficult also.
“Our confidence can go up, can go down. But the most important is to be clear in our minds and our way. Our way is to think of this semi-final and prepare for the match in the best possible way.”
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Aaron Ramesy will again be missing for Arsenal on Thursday night, with the Welshman still recovering from the hamstring injury he picked up in the last round against Napoli.
Denis Suarez is also unavailable after he confirmed that a groin injury will rule him out for the rest of season, with the on loan Barcelona midfielder unlikely to play for the Gunners again.
Mesut Ozil and Nacho Monreal both missed Sunday’s defeat at the King Power, but the pair could be fit to face Valencia.
As for Marcelino’s side, Goncalo Guedes could be the man to cause Arsenal’s shaky defence problems according to ESPN’s Spanish football expert David Cartlidge.
Speaking to the Islington Gazette, he said: “The Portuguese attacker is in outstanding form at the moment and is undoubtedly the danger man.
“He’s quick, skilful and explodes in the final third to devastating effect.”