Europa League: Arsenal play Atletico Madrid in semi-finals

Arsene Wenger (above) must work out how to defeat Atletico Madrid
Arsene Wenger on the touchline early this season
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If Arsenal are to win the Europa League, they'll need to get past tournament favourites Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals. Max Liu updates the odds after Friday's draw...

"Odds of [2.34] on Diego Simeone's side to lift European football's second biggest prize reflect their status as the strongest team left in the competition, and Arsenal will have to be at their very best if they're to progress."

Arsenal will face a formidable challenge in their bid to win the Europa League when they play tournament favourites Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals. The first leg will be played at the Emirates Stadium on 26 April, with the return leg a week later in the Spanish capital.

In the other semi-final, French club Marseille play Austrian team Red Bull Salzburg.

Odds of [2.34] on Diego Simeone's side to lift European football's second biggest prize reflect their status as the strongest team left in the competition, so Arsenal will have to be at their very best if they're to progress.

Atletico will be Gunners' toughest test

So far, the Gunners, who are [4.3] to win the Europa League, have overcome their opponents comfortably en route to the final. In the quarter-finals, they beat CSKA Moscow 6-3 on aggregate and showed great spirit to come back from 2-0 down and draw in the second leg in Russia. Prior to that, Arsenal swept aside AC Milan 5-1 over two legs.

Atletico lost their second-leg last night against Sporting Lisbon but Wenger won't be under any illusions: he knows, the Spanish side will provide Arsenal's sternest test yet.

There is a considerable amount riding on the tie. Wenger knows that, with his team 13 points off the Premier League top four, winning the Europa League is the only way Arsenal can realistically qualify for next season's Champions League. The competition is now the club's priority and striker Alexandre Lacazette has said that winning it would save Arsenal's season and could mean Wenger stays on as manager for another year.

An intriguing clash of managers

Wenger is one of the old masters of European football management. By contrast, in Simeone, Atletico have one of the most highly-regarded young bosses in the world football.

The Argentine has already taken his side to two Champions League finals and, when he leaves the Spanish capital, Simeone will be wanted by a host of European clubs, including potentially Chelsea and even Arsenal, although he is 14/1 on Betfair Sportsbook to be the Gunners' next boss.

This Europa League semi-final will be Wenger's chance to show that he can still achieve success against the continent's strongest teams and at the highest level. He must seize it.

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