Through to the Uefa Europa League semifinals for the second successive season, Arsenal take on Valencia hoping to avoid the same fate as 12 months ago, when they were eliminated by Spanish opposition, going out to eventual winners Atlético Madrid.
This season Arsenal cruised through to the knockout phase from Group E, dropping just two points as they qualified with two games to spare, but they had a scare in both the round of 32 and round of 16 against BATE Borisov and Rennes respectively before winning home (2-0) and away (1-0) in the quarterfinal against Napoli.
Valencia’s autumn campaign was in the Uefa Champions League, where they finished third behind Juventus and Manchester United in Group H (W2 D2 L2). They are unbeaten in their six Uefa Europa League matches, having knocked out Celtic and Krasnodar before claiming quarterfinal victories in both legs (3-1 away, 2-0 home) against fellow Spanish side Villarreal.
The clubs have been paired together in Uefa competition on three previous occasions, Valencia coming out on top each time.
The Spanish club defeated the Gunners 5-4 on penalties in the 1979/80 European Cup Winners’ Cup final – the first European final to be decided in that manner – after a 0-0 draw in Brussels, Graham Rix missing the vital kick.
Valencia then eliminated Arsenal from the 2000/01 Uefa Champions League on away goals, following a 1-2 defeat in London with a 1-0 home win thanks to John Carew’s goal. Two years later the Norwegian striker scored twice more as Valencia, then the champions of Spain, defeated their English counterparts 2-1 at Mestalla in the final game of the second group stage to advance to the quarterfinals at their visitors’ expense, the earlier game in north London having ended goalless.
Arsenal have won only ten of their 33 Uefa fixtures against Spanish opposition, their 15 defeats including three in finals – against Valencia in 1979/80, Zaragoza in the 1994/95 European Cup Winners’ Cup and Barcelona in the 2005/06 Uefa Champions League.
At home their record is W8 D4 L3, though they are without a victory in the last two games, a 0-2 defeat by Barcelona in the 2015/16 Uefa Champions League round of 16 preceding a 1-1 draw against Atlético in the first leg of last season’s Uefa Europa League semifinal. The Gunners have lost their last four two-legged ties against Liga sides, having won each of the four prior to that sequence.
Valencia’s record in 37 Uefa matches against English opposition is W12 D16 L9. They have won six of their nine two-legged ties, the most recent against Stoke City in the 2011/12 Uefa Europa League round of 32 when they recorded two 1-0 victories. Their last three visits to Premier League grounds have brought two wins, one draw and three clean sheets.
Their one previous European semifinal against an English club resulted in a 3-0 aggregate victory against Leeds United in the 2000/01 Uefa Champions League (0-0 away, 3-0 home).
Uefa Champions League ever-presents for 19 successive seasons until last term, Arsenal reached the Uefa Europa League semifinals at the first attempt, going out to eventual winners Atlético.
This season they breezed through their group, an opening 4-2 win at home to Vorskla Poltava preceding four wins and a draw in which they conceded no further goals.
That competition record-equalling run of five clean sheets ended at BATE, where they lost 1-0 before recovering to win 3-0 at home. It was a similar comeback tale in the round of 16, a 3-1 defeat at Rennes preceding another 3-0 home victory, before a 1-0 win at Napoli supplemented a first-leg 2-0 home win.
Arsenal’s only previous Uefa Europa League semifinal came last season against Atlético, when they drew 1-1 at home, Alexandre Lacazette scoring, before losing 1-0 in Madrid. It was the Gunners’ first European semifinal since the 2008/09 Uefa Champions League, when they were beaten 4-1 on aggregate by Manchester United (0-1 away, 1- 3 home). Their last semifinal victory came against Spanish opposition as they defeated Villarreal 1-0 at home and on aggregate in the 2005/06 Uefa Champions League.
The 1999/2000 Uefa Cup runners-up picked up seven points at home in this season’s group stage. The knockout phase wins against BATE, Rennes and Napoli mean their home record in two Uefa Europa League campaigns is now W9 D3 L1, with 31 goals scored and eight conceded. The Gunners have kept clean sheets in their last five home games in the competition.
Fourth in the Spanish Liga in 2017/18, Valencia qualified for an 11th Uefa Champions League group stage campaign after two consecutive seasons without European football.
Valencia lost twice without scoring against Juventus in the autumn but took four points off both Manchester United and Young Boys, beating each at home and drawing away. Celtic were brushed aside in the Uefa Europa League round of 32 (2-0 away, 1-0 home) before substitute Gonçalo Guedes’s dramatic late strike in Russia knocked out Krasnodar 3-2 on aggregate. Villarreal were then disp…( Continue Reading ) [via @SuperSportTV]