AC Milan v Arsenal
Europa League Round of 16 Knockout Stage – First Leg
Thursday 8 March – 18:00
Arsenal travel to Italy to face AC Milan in a game that could prove pivotal – not only for the Gunners’ season but also the future of Arsene Wenger.
Defeat against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday left much to be desired as Arsenal now sit 13 points adrift from the top four. The Europa League holds a huge opportunity, with the victors of the competition being rewarded with a coveted Champions League place.
Pressure is mounting immensely on Wenger in what has been his most difficult season in charge during his 21-year reign. Arsenal have won only six of their 20 away games in all competitions this season.
Arsenal last faced AC Milan in the 2011/12 Champions League campaign as they were defeated 4-3 on aggregate. Milan romped to victory in the first-leg at the San Siro putting four past Arsenal. Despite a spirited performance in the return leg at the Emirates, Arsenal only managed to salvage three goals and were subsequently eliminated.
The Rossoneri breezed past Ludogorets in the round-of-32 stage with a 4-0 victory on aggregate. Since being appointed as manager in November, Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan side has returned to form and are currently unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions. Despite their improved form, Milan currently sit in seventh position in Serie A.
Arsenal go into the first-leg in a horrible run of form having lost all their last four matches. Defeat in this tie could spell the end for Wenger at Arsenal, although the French manager has suggested that he will honour his contract which will have one year remaining at the end of the season.
Arsenal have somewhat of a striker crisis as Alexandre Lacazette remains injured while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible to play. Aaron Ramsey is expected to be in contention after being omitted from the squad in Sunday’s loss to Brighton. Nacho Monreal will also miss out with an ongoing back injury.
It is expected that Andrea Conti, Luca Antonelli and Iganzio Abatae will all miss out through injury for the Italian side.
Arsenal wins: 2
AC Milan wins: 2