Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Live, Europa League: Chelsea, Arsenal 90 mins from semis

Leave a comment

Eden Hazard and Chelsea enter Stamford Bridge with hopes of holding off visitors Slavia Prague and taking another step to the Europa League final in Azerbaijan.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League Last 16 ]

Antonio Rudiger misses out with injury for Maurizio Sarri‘s men.

Speaking of Sarri, any hopes of meeting old side Napoli are slim thanks to the Neapolitans’ 2-0 first leg setback at Arsenal.

The Gunners will hope to handle Napoli’s threat in Italy, and Unai Emery will attack with both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up top.

All matches kick off at 3 p.m. ET

Schedule

Chelsea v. Slavia Prague (Chelsea leads 1-0)
Napoli v. Arsenal (Arsenal leads 2-0)
Valencia v. Villarreal (Valencia leads 3-1)
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Benfica (Eintracht leads 4-2)

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Chelsea nurse advantages

Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Only one of four Europa League quarterfinals sees two clubs within a goal of each other after 90 minutes, and that’s heavily-favored Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat of Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic.

So while it’s possible that the Czech side rebounds to take care of the Blues at Stamford Bridge, it’s rational to say that tie might be the least in the balance.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Olivier Giroud says Chelsea will not be overlooking the Red and Whites, if only because of the challenge presented in the first leg.

“We were very impressed by their quality and intensity,” Giroud said, from Chelsea.com. “You get used to it in the Premier League, but honestly the first half was very tough. They put a lot of pressure on us, good pressing all over the pitch, so it was a very tough. … So we know what kind of team we will face tomorrow. They are not going to give up, and that’s why we are still cautious about this game.”

Arsenal leads its tie 2-0 after the London-hosted first leg but faces a Napoli team quite capable of putting up goals in bunches.

Napoli averages almost two goals a match in Serie A this season, but Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos says the Gunners can get the job done in Italy.

“I know my team,” he said via Arsenal.com. “I know that we are a team who play very good football. Every game we fight for the best. From the beginning we’ve improved a lot. Now we’re in the last steps of the Premier League and Europa League, and we want to win as much as we can. This is one more final and we’ll be ready to take this.”

Eintracht Frankfurt bagged four away goals and a two-goal advantage in Portugal, leaving Benfica in likely need of a three goals or better win, while Valencia scored three times at Villarreal to bring a two-goal advantage home.

Kickoff for all four second legs is 3 p.m. ET

Arsenal, Aubameyang speak out on racism as Koulibaly video emerges

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal is condemning the culprits and investigating a video showing a fan shouting racist obscenities at star Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.

“We utterly condemn use of this type of racist language,” Arsenal said in a statement. “We operate a zero-tolerance approach and anyone behaving like this is not welcome at Arsenal and will be banned from matches. We have an extremely diverse community of fans who are all part of the Arsenal family and such incidents are rare at the Emirates Stadium. We encourage supporters to report any incidents as they happen to stewards or via our matchday alert service.”

[ MORE: Liverpool in big money apparel switch? ]

The incident occurred in Arsenal’s 2-0 first leg defeat of Napoli in the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday, and comes on the heels of incidents involving big name clubs and players around Europe.

And increased reports and videos from around the grounds of England will appear like an open wound but are actually a sign of progress that fans and onlookers are no longer standing idly by and instead have found an avenue to expose such vile behavior.

After the match Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang admitted that racism in England has reared its head against him prior to Thursday. From Arsenal.com:

“I am really disappointed about that. I had the same problem here against Tottenham. When you are black like me it is really painful, I think, because we are in 2019 and obviously it is not good for football in England. Hopefully we will find a way to kick it out.”

Europa League: Alonso gives Chelsea advantage over Slavia Prague, and more (video)

Leave a comment

In what had been a quiet affair, it was Marcos Alonso of all people who popped up late to score the winning goal.

Chelsea defeated Slavia Prague, 1-0 on a header in the 84th minute by Alsonso, latching onto a terrific cross from Willian to find the breakthrough. The win puts Chelsea in the driver’s seat to advance to the Europa League semifinals, with a lead and an away goal.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The goal is a big boost for Marcos Alonso, who has struggled mightily at times this year and has been benched in recent Premier League games for Emerson as the team’s left wing back. In addition, it cools the coach’s seat ever more for Maurizio Sarri, who could still secure a top-four finish and even potentially win the Europa League.

Slavia Prague was lively and energetic in the opening half hour, putting pressure on Chelsea’s defense and pinning the Blues back in their own half for long stretches. However, Slavia never managed to get a good shot on target, with strikes either right at Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa or wife of the net.

Willian, who was dangerous all night along the wings, hit a shot off the crossbar in the 25th minute, but that was the extent of Chelsea’s dangerous chances. That is, until Eden Hazard was introduced 14 minutes into the second half. Hazard’s dribbling ability and skill on the ball forced Slavia to shade his way, which led to more Chelsea chances down Willian’s side, and eventually may have played a role in the winner.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Elsewhere, Benfica’s 19-year-old budding star Joao Felix had himself a day, scoring a hat-trick as Benfica topped Eintracht Frankfurt, 4-2. Felix scored a hat-trick, fired home a laser into the bottom corner, and then scored on a low strike in the box. Felix also had an assist off a corner kick that was headed in. It was a heck of a match for the teenager, and if Europe’s biggest clubs weren’t already on his radar, they are now.

In Spain, former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla scored a penalty kick but it wasn’t enough as Valencia picked up a confidence-boosting 3-1 win on the road over Villarreal. Portugal international Goncalo Guedes finished with two goals for Valencia.

Europa League: Arsenal takes control of tie with win over Napoli (video)

Leave a comment

Arsenal took one major step towards qualification for the UEFA Europa League semifinals with one of its best performances of the season on Thursday evening.

Unai Emery’s tactical gamble paid off as Arsenal took an early lead and never let off, defeating Serie A power Napoli, 2-0 at Emirates Stadium. Midfield duo Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira produced the goals, with Ramsey scoring early and Torreira having a shot re-directed in.

Emery chose to start the trio of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette together up top, going for gold against a Napoli side know for its defending and quick counter attacks. It could have left Arsenal vulnerable defensively but the attention paid to the front-three opened up space for Arsenal’s players making late runs into the box.

That was how Ramsey scored in the 13th minute. Ozil found Lacazette in space down the wing. On attacking the box, Lacazette passed to Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the box, who spun around and found an open Ramsey. Ramsey collected the pass and chipped past Alex Meret to put Arsenal ahead.

Torreira, the little bulldog in central midfield, then forced a turnover in the 25th minute, chased it down and bore down on goal. Torreira then switched the ball to his weaker left foot and fired a strike on goal. To Kalidou Koulibaly’s dismay, the ball deflected off his leg and in for another goal to Arsenal.

Napoli came out in the second half with more energy and intensity, but they couldn’t find the way past Arsenal’s suddenly resolute defense, led by Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis. Ramsey nearly had another chance to score, with a cracking strike tipped over the bar by Meret.

At the end, Arsenal held on to secure a massive clean sheet ahead of next Thursday’s return leg in Napoli.