AC Milan vs Arsenal: Europa League draw initial reaction
As most of the football world knows by now, the Europa League draw that took place yesterday paired AC Milan with Arsenal in the Round of 16. While some may have wanted this draw to take place later in the competition, it comes at a great time. Having these two teams face off against each other will bring serious attention to the competition. Let's take an initial look into the fixture.
AC Milan sit in joint 6th place in Serie are but are currently in their best form of the season. They have an unbeaten run of 10 games, seven of those 10 have been victories, and they are about to embark on a crucial portion of their campaign. Milan's next four matches are against Roma (Serie A), Lazio (Coppa Italia semi-final), Inter (Serie A), Arsenal (Europa League). Roma and Inter are two teams the Rossoneri are chasing in order to reach a top four spot in Serie A. This was unthinkable in early December, but the emergence of the squad under Gennaro Gattuso has given them a slither of hope as they now sit eight points behind 4th place Lazio. This portion of the season could see Milan in prime position to challenge on all three fronts, or could see them basically eliminated from all three competitions. It will be a very exciting run for Milan fans. In the Europa League Round of 32, Milan beat Ludogorets 4-0 on aggregate.
Moving onto Arsenal, they are also in a crucial portion of their season as they are about to face Manchester City in the final of the Carabao Cup on Sunday, February 25th, and then they face the league leaders again in the Premier League on Thursday, March 1st. As far as Champions League hopes for next season, they are in similar position to Milan as they are in 6th place and eight points behind fourth place Chelsea. They are particularly bolstered by the January acquisitions of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The former Borussia Dortmund pair were on fire in their first match against Everton, winning 5-1, however they stumbled against Tottenham. The moves will definitely help them fight for a top four finish. In the Round of 32 of the Europa League, Arsenal beat Ostersunds 4-2 on aggregate but suffered 2-1 loss in the second leg.
Now that we know the current form of both teams, let's move onto the tie. It is certainly a fascinating one that people could expect in the Champions League. In fact, the last two times these sides met were both in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, with Arsenal victories in 2008 while Milan were the winners in 2012. The 2012 clash was very exciting as Milan won 4-0 at the San Siro only to see Arsenal win 3-0 at the Emirates and almost overturn the massive first leg result. While Arsenal have been regulars in Europe in the Champions League and the Europa League, this is the Rossoneri's return to Europe after a few years absent. It will be exciting to see how they match up against one of England's strongest sides. One bummer is that Aubameyang is cup tied and cannot feature in the matchup against his former youth club. Regardless, it will be a great matchup that will certainly not disappoint!
The matches will take place at the San Siro on March 8th and at the Emirates on March 15th. There will be a full preview of the fixture closer to the match, stay tuned...