Yellow Submarines to sink the Gunners
The second legs of the 2020/2021 UEFA Europa League semi-finals take place on Thursday evening. Barring a monumental collapse, Manchester United will be in the final, facing either fellow English giants Arsenal or Spanish La Liga perennial overachievers Villarreal. The Yellow Submarines hold a slender 2-1 advantage from the first leg, a game which finished with 10 men apiece on both sides. Midfielders Dani Ceballos and Etienne Capoue are big losses for the contenders, and though the Gunners did manage to claim an away goal, they still have their work cut out against their fired up opponents. Read our preview here:
With key absentees at left-back, central midfield, and up top, Mikel Arteta's likely XI almost picks itself. The backline looked very susceptible indeed in the first fixture, and with Granit Xhaka in wholly unfamiliar territory, the four will be heavily reliant on the mercurial talents of Thomas Partey to act both as screen and to drive the team forwards. Fellow pivot Mohamed Elneny has not been a regular this term, and lacks the quality to break down the inevitable counters the visitors will attempt to spring on their hosts, who will naturally have to claim at the least the first goal to hold any sort of advantage. Elsewhere, while Nicholas Pépé has largely disappointed domestically, he has come to his own in continental competition, racking up six goals with his direct, angled runs into the area. More of the same is required on Thursday night to eliminate the deficit, and fellow wide man Bukayo Saka will swap sides and dovetail in their support of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Juan Foyth is more than sufficient
There were no shortage of impressive performers in bright yellow at Estadio de la Cerámica, including most notably Tottenham Hotspur loanee Juan Foyth. The Argentine's versatility has been a big asset for former Emirates head coach Unai Emery, and his willingness to get into the final third from right-back really stretched the north London powerhouses frequently. Capoue's suspension could mean a slot opens up for Francis Coquelin, which only further adds to the intrigue on Thursday. Carlos Bacca didn't feature in the weekend's win over Getafe, raising the prospect that he'll partner prolific striker Gerard Moreno in attack. Emery is unlikely to deviate from his tried and trusted 4-4-2, but the onus will naturally be on delaying and frustrating Arsenal as long as possible to open up gaps later in the tie.
El Submarino Amarillo have never won a European trophy (excluding the now-defunct Intertoto Cup). Indeed, they have never lifted the La Liga crown either, and yet are always buzzing there or thereabouts in the latter stages of the former and the top six of the latter, despite only infrequently having prominent talents whose reputations are internationally known. Equally, despite Arsenal's total shambles of a season, they remain realistically confident of a meeting with Manchester United in the final, and with it, a back door into the Champions League their domestic efforts would never come even close to deserving. The pressure will be on Arteta more, and in those situations, his charges have often been found wanting. bet365 have odds of 3.60 for a second leg draw, which would be sufficient for Emery to complete his revenge.