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  HOME | Sports (Click here for more)

Valencia and Arsenal: Worst of Times for Both Ahead of UEL Semis

LONDON Ė Valencia CF will travel to England to play Arsenal, coached by Unai Emery of Spain, in the first leg of UEFA Europa League semifinals on Thursday.

The La Liga team is set to try for a good result at Emirates Stadium in London while the second leg will be played next week on Valenciaís home pitch at Mestalla stadium.

However, Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toralís team has been handed two domestic league defeats by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish capital (3-2) and by Eibar in Valencia (1-0).

These two defeats have marred Valenciaís best stretch of the season, as the team had lost only one game in its 21 previous matches.

The pair of losses also reduced the teamís chances for securing the fourth spot in the La Liga standings, which would qualify Valencia for the Champions League next season, a situation that has increased the worth of the Europa League semis for Valencia.

The Spanish side has had bad luck on the injury and penalty fronts with two of its midfielders being ruled out of the clash against the London team: injured Geoffrey Kondogbia and suspended Francis Coquelin, both of France.

Garcia Toral will have to find a replacement for both players who can fit into the midfield to create a duo with team captain Daniel ďDaniĒ Parejo. To this end, the coach seems to have narrowed his choices to Daniel Wass of Denmark or Carlos Soler of Spain.

Such a decision must result in another change on the right side, either in the right-back position, where Wass normally plays, or in Solerís attacking position.

Cristiano Piccini of Italy, who has been sidelined for a couple of weeks due to injury, and Facundo Roncaglia of Argentina look to be the candidates for the right-back position, while Wass or Ferran Torres will play as a winger.

In addition to the two missing French midfielders, more players are set to be sidelined for the clash against the London side, including injured Russian winger Denis Cheryshev and the 18-year-old playmaker Lee Kang-in, who has been called home for the U20 South Korean national team.

That means that Portugalís GonÁalo Guedes is expected to occupy the left winger position.

Beyond these obligatory changes due to suspension or penalty, no further variations are expected in Valenciaís starting 11.

Meanwhile, the poor play Arsenal has shown in the seasonís final stretch has been bad in the extreme. The Gunners have conceded three domestic defeats in a row to Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City Ė all teams the capital squad should have beaten.

The concern, above all, is about Arsenalís defensive play as the team has allowed three goals in each of those three defeats.

The change of defensive format from a five-man system to four men, following the 3-2 defeat to Palace at Emirates stadium, has not corrected Arsenalís defensive problems after being unable to compensate for the absence of Spainís Nacho Monreal after his calf injury.

Player absences are also a headache for coach Emery, who previously trained Valencia for four seasons.

There are five other injured players on the Arsenal squad in addition to Monreal, namely Aaron Ramsey, Denis Suarez, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck.

It has been reported in local media that Ramsey is set to miss the remainder of this season and he will join Italyís Juventus over the summer on a free-transfer deal. Suarez also announced Monday that it had been decided that he will not be playing until the end of the season because of his groin injury.


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