Arsenal vs Napoli : Arsenal host Napoli in the first-leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night.Unai Emery has admitted that his side “need to win” the meeting with Napoli at the Emirates Stadium given their poor record away from home.The Gunners have won five Premier League away games all season, losing 1-0 at Everton last weekend.
The tie of the Europa League so far is almost here with Arsenal hosting Napoli in the first leg of their quarter-final clash tonight.
The Gunners were given a reminder of just how important this competition is to their hopes of returning to the Champions League next season after a defeat to Everton at the weekend once again intensified the race for a fourth place finish in the Premier League.
Unai Emery winning this competition for a fourth time will give them clear passage into Europe’s premier competition next season regardless of how that frantic domestic battle pans out.
Napoli however stand in their way. Carlo Ancelotti and his side are able to put all their efforts into winning their first European trophy since 1989 with their hopes of catching Juventus in the race for the Serie A title long over.The match will be televised live on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport 4K UHD. BT Sport subscribers will be able to stream the match online via the video player and the BT Sport app.Arsenal manager Unai Emery has said he is used to his teams playing “under pressure” as they gear up for their UEFA Europa League quarter-final with Napoli.
The Gunners face the Serie A side on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium in what is arguably the standout tie of the last eight. The matches are crucial for Arsenal in what is poised to be a gripping end to the season, as they are chasing Europa League glory and a top-four finish in the Premier League.
With two clear targets, there will be a lot of tense encounters to come for Arsenal. Speaking ahead of Thursday’s match, Emery said that doesn’t bother him, per Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail:”We are always demanding of ourselves. For me, playing under pressure is normal. We are being consistent a lot at the moment. This match is a big-level match, and the level we want to play. It’s a very big test for us in this competition.
“We want to play the best teams, and Napoli now is one of the best teams, with the best players and also a very experienced coach.”
Being involved in different battles during the run-in means Arsenal have two chances to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League: succeed in the Europa League or finish in the Premier League’s top four.
The Europa League has been a tournament of highs and lows for the Gunners. In the previous round they produced a brilliant performance in the second leg to overturn a 3-1 deficit against Rennes (U.S. only):The Gunners don’t come into the game on the back of a strong showing, though, as they were far from their best when they were beaten 1-0 by Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.
Mesut Ozil started that encounter but was brought off after struggling to make an impact. When he was on the bench, the German was captured throwing his coat in the direction of Toffees boss Marco Silva during a flashpoint in the game.
“This is happening all the season [being asked about Ozil],” Emery said when quizzed on whether the player has an issue with discipline. “When I decided he’s going to play, some journalists asked me ‘why?’ And when I sometimes decide he’s not playing, they ask me ‘why is he not playing?'”While Arsenal have had their issues away from home this season, on they have been strong on home soil, recently notching their 10th successive win at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League.
The Stadio San Paolo will be a tough place to go in the second leg, as Napoli have high-class players and a raucous crowd behind them. With that in mind, it feels imperative the Gunners are in front at the halfway point of what should be a gripping tie.The trendy Arsenal narrative lately has been the disparity between the Gunners’ home and away form. SPOILER ALERT: it’s bad. Like Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace bad. In fact, the Gunners have the worst home-away point disparity in the Premier League.
Things have not been much better in the Europa League. Arsenal have lost both away knockout round fixtures. With the first leg of the Europa League Quarterfinal against Napoli coming at the Emirates on Thursday, there is a load of pressure on the Gunners to get a result. Of course you always want to get a result in the first leg of a tie, but it feels especially important that this Arsenal side win the home leg.
So far this season, the Gunners have risen to the occasion and have played their best football against the better clubs. When they needed wins (at home) against BATE and then against Rennes to stay in the Europa League, they got them. A list of Arsenal’s best performances would include the games against Tottenham, Manchester United, and Chelsea in the Premier League. The Gunners have answered the bell so far this season.
Napoli are a strong side. They’re in the midst of a dip in form but still sit seven points clear in second place in Serie A. They have a comfortable twelve point cushion to stay in a Champions League qualification spot. They are not catching Juventus to win the league. Their focus will be squarely on winning the Europa League.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side was bolstered at the weekend by the return Italy international Lorenzo Insigne. The Napoli striker and team captain has 13 goals and 7 assists for the club this season. Left back Faouzi Ghoulam has also returned from injury. In what some Arsenal fans will see as good news, David Ospina has been declared fit as well (there is no rule against loanees playing against parent clubs in the Europa League). In all seriousness, it’s good to see the Colombian keeper fit – his head injury and subsequent collapse on the pitch last month was scary. Finally, rumored Arsenal summer transfer target Kalidou Koulibaly has served his European suspension and is expected to start.
Both Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny returned to training on Wednesday after missing out at the weekend. They face late fitness tests for Thursday’s match. Koscielny is the more likely of the two to be available. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was limited to a substitute role against Everton due to illness, but Unai Emery said in his press conference that the striker was available to start.