Paul Merson believes Atletico Madrid will be too strong for Arsenal in the Europa League semi-finals.
Paul Merson has labelled Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid “a nightmare draw” and thinks the La Liga side will “have too much” for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Atletico are two-time winners of the competition, the bookmakers’ favourites to lift this year’s competition and are third in the UEFA club rankings with only Real Madrid and Bayern Munich ahead of them.
“They [Arsenal] have a chance,” Merson told Premier League Daily. “Atletico are not a team that are going to blow you away – they’ll suffocate you more than anything and nick a goal.
“But I just think over two legs they can play the Atletico Madrid way and the manager’s way it will be hard.
“If it was a one-off game in the cup final, Arsenal would have had a chance but I just watch this team and I think they’ll have too much for Arsenal.
“It’s just a nightmare draw.”
Former Tottenham midfielder Ryan Mason, who played against Atletico in a pre-season friendly for Spurs, was also in agreement with Merson at the task facing Arsenal.
He told Premier League Daily: “That’s the worst possible draw for Arsenal. I think they could beat Atletico in a one-off game in a final but to beat them over the course of two legs, that’s going to be very, very difficult for them and that’s the toughest draw.
Arsenal will struggle to beat Atletico Madrid over two legs in the Europa League semi-finals, according to Ryan Mason.
“I think if you were to play this game 10 times, Atletico will probably go through over the two legs seven times.
“Arsenal have that ability to produce results but over the course of two legs, it’s going to be very tough for them.”
Former Chelsea striker Diego Costa, who was forced off with a thigh injury in the 1-0 Europa League defeat by Sporting Lisbon, is now at Atletico.
The Spaniard’s last goal for Chelsea was against the Gunners in the 2017 FA Cup final and Mason believes he will be keen to end Arsenal’s Europa League run.
“They probably would have been glad to see the back of him,” said Mason. “He’ s a top striker and he’s one of those where as a defender you come off the game knowing you’ve been in a battle with him because he puts himself about, he works hard for the team and he can score goals.
“He’s gradually getting his fitness back and he looks like he’s getting fitter. It’s the business end of the season, he’s not played a lot of games this year and I’m sure he’ll be relishing the opportunity to potentially score against Arsenal again.”