Rely on Ramsey: Arsenal v Atletico Madrid Europa League Preview

Arsenal take on Atletico Madrid in a Europa League Semi Final on Thursday. Infogol’s Analyst previews the big game, using expected goals (xG) to generate the best bets.

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Arsenal Expected Goals

The feel-good factor may have been back at the Emirates at the weekend, however Arsenal were a little flattered by the 4-1 scoreline (xG: ARS 2.05 – 0.72 WHU), and they haven’t been at their very best since beating CSKA Moscow 4-1 here in the last round of this competition.

They were fortunate to beat Southampton (xG: ARS 1.59 – 2.02 SOU), suffered a few nervous moments in a fair 2-2 draw in the second leg in Moscow, and were then beaten 2-1 at St James’s Park by Newcastle.

To boot, two key players in Arsenal’s Europa League campaign are now no longer with the club. Theo Walcott (now at Everton) and Olivier Giroud (now at Chelsea) have made the two largest contributions in terms of xG, placing more emphasis on the role that Aaron Ramsey will have to play in Thursday’s match.

Main contributors to Arsenal's Europa League campaign

The strings are often pulled by Mesut Ozil (four assists in the Europa League so far this season), however Ramsey has scored four in the competition and could be the man to break the deadlock against an Atletico side that will provide a much sterner examination than that provided by both Milan and CSKA Moscow in the last two knockout rounds.

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Atletico Madrid Expected Goals

Atletico are the current favourites for the Europa League, and have enjoyed a relatively serene passage to this point since joining in at the last 32-stage following a disappointing Champions League campaign.

Copenhagen and Lokomotiv Moscow were both despatched with ease, however Diego Simeone’s side enjoyed a less comfortable second leg against Sporting Lisbon in the quarter finals. Flattered to be two-nil up from the first match (xG: ATL 1.56 – 1.27 SPO), a 1-0 reverse in Lisbon meant that Atletico endured a nervy finale to the tie, with Simeone forced to make a raft of early tactical substitutions.

Match timeline for Sporting Lisbon v Atletico Madrid

Atleti currently sit in second place in La Liga, a position which has been built on a solid defensive foundation; they’ve conceded just 18 goals in 34 matches in the competition this season (amazingly just four at the Wanda Metropolitano).

At the other end of the pitch, their main attacking threat comes from Antoine Griezmann. He has 19 in La Liga this term, as well as three in the Europa League – a goal every 125 minutes – and has been ably backed up by Saúl Ñíguez (3 goals from just 0.69 xG).

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Arsenal have struggled against the better teams this season (they have failed to score against Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City in at least one game this term) and will need their big players to be on form if they are to break down a well-organised Atletico side that have only conceded more than 2 xG three times in all competitions this season. Aaron Ramsey is crucial to Arsene Wenger’s side and he is fancied to break the deadlock in a low-scoring game.

Recommended bet:

Aaron Ramsey to score first @ 15/2


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