Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone thinks Arsenal are their strongest rival remaining in the Europa League, thanks largely to manager Arsene Wenger.
Speaking to the press, as reported in Sunday’s AS, Simeone had a lot of praise for the North London side. He insisted that his team only have a 50% chance of making it to the final in Lyon.
“Possibly, by history, [Arsenal] are the strongest rival,” he said. “With a very important and capable manager, and with players that play well. It’s a 50/50 tie.”
Most Arsenal fans aren’t feeling so confident about their manager’s ability to win them the tie right now. Although the club have had a strong Europa League campaign, they’ve shipped defeats for fun domestically all season. That’s likely to harm their confidence, and if they concede one in this fragile state, more could quickly follow.
Of course, no one really knows for sure how Arsenal will fare against the team from the Spanish capital, because they’ve never faced up competitively before. The only time the two clubs did meet was in the Emirates Cup in 2009.
On that occasion, Arsene Wenger’s side came out on top with a 2-1 win. But a friendly nine years ago is hardly a good barometer for a semi-final today. Nowadays, Atletico are fighting for league titles whilst Arsenal struggle to get into Europe.
Let’s hope Simeone’s fears about the tie are more well founded than even we realise.