Former Arsenal Star, Charlie Nicholas has predicted mixed fortunes for Arsenal and Chelsea ahead of the first legs of their respective Europa League semi-finals. Struggling Arsenal welcome Spanish outfit Valencia to the Emirates on Thursday evening, while Chelsea visit Eintracht Frankfurt on the same night.
Unai Emery’s Gunners appeared in pole position to finish in the top four of the Premier League before three successive defeats has seen the team drop below Chelsea into fifth. Chelsea are also enduring a difficult run, failing to win any of their last three league fixtures, but are two points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal with two matches remaining.
Despite Chelsea holding the upper hand over Arsenal in the Premier League,Nicholas believes it will be the Blues who suffer defeat on Thursday while Arsenal clinch a vital win.
‘What’s happened at Arsenal of late is really troubling,’ the Gunners legend told Sky Sports. ‘They got beat at home to Crystal Palace but what is Unai Emery’s best scenario? ‘Valencia sometimes play one up front and Goncalo Guedes is the main threat, while against Celtic, Dani Parejo was the danger man – he can pick a pass and open Arsenal up.
‘Emery knows Valencia aren’t going to be overly physical so Arsenal need to play with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette closer together with Mesut Ozil back in. ‘These are the types of games which Ozil can really do something in. Thursday may, finally, just be Ozil’s night. Arsenal 3-1 Valencia.’
On Chelsea’s trip to Frankfurt, Nicholas added: ‘This is a tough game to predict. ‘Frankfurt are doing well, they had a big comeback in the quarter-finals and will be looking at the key to Chelsea, which is Eden Hazard of course.
‘They will sit back – German teams have a good structure – but Hazard can blow that structure away and is key to what Chelsea do.
‘Chelsea will try and play on the counter-attack – I hope Maurizio Sarri doesn’t play Hazard as a number nine. He is easier to mark and harder to get the ball to. ‘Marcos Alonso is definitely vulnerable when he plays left-back, so I am looking at a slight defeat for Chelsea that will leave them with work to do before next week’s return at Stamford Bridge. Frankfurt 2-1 Chelsea.’