Arsenal were deemed favorites when they were drawn to play Czech side Slavia Prague in the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Europa League but a first leg draw at the Emirates Stadium last week has set up a second-leg highly anticipated by fans of European football.
Slavia Prague have been comfortable being the top underdogs in this season’s Europa League and the Czech outfit defied the odds by holding the Gunners to a stalemate in their own yard. The manner of the draw should worry Mikel Arteta as his side conceded the equalizer in the dying minutes of the game.
The Gunners had taken an 86th-minute lead through Ivorian star, Nicolas Pepe before Slavia notched a deserved away goal to continue their impressive run against British sides. Slavia dumped Steven Gerrard’s Rangers and Kelechi Iheanacho’s Leicester out in the competition’s last two rounds.
They went on to prove that their performance in London was no fluke as they beat local rivals Sparta Prague at the weekend. While the bookies would consider the Premier League sides as favorites, it is important to note that the Prague side also known as the Červenobílí are now unbeaten in 23 games in all competitions.
Arsenal will go into the game with confidence after ending a four-match winless run with a comfortable 3-0 victory at bottom club Sheffield United on Sunday.
Their clean sheet at Bramall Lane was Arsenal’s first in 15 games in all competitions, while the Gunners have prevented their opponents from scoring just once in their last eight attempts in the Europa League. This would be delightful news to Super Eagles striker, Peter Olayinka who has scored 11 goals and five assists this season.
Olayinka has already disclosed that he believes his teammates have what it takes to stop the 2006 UEFA Champions League finalists at this stage of the UEFA Europa League. A defeat for Arsenal would signal an end to their chances of lifting any title this season. The Gunners are out of all the domestic cup competitions and were never in the Premier League title race.
“This is a big game for all of us. Getting to the semi-finals is a big deal, and for some of us, this is a rare opportunity. We’ve played several top games and are built for difficult opponents. What it looks like is that opposition players underrate us, maybe not their managers, but the players.”Peter Olayinka, speaking with Brilla.net
Slavia Prague are yet to lose a single game at home in any competition this term, and their last defeat at the Sinobo Stadium came all the way back in November 2019, when Inter Milan left with three Champions League group stage points.
The Arsenal have been out of form since mid-March, and it would be difficult to end Slavia’s 23-game unbeaten record tonight.
Do you think the Gunners have what it takes to proceed to the Semi-finals?