Paul Higham says Arsenal can put their poor domestic run behind them as they return to the Europa League - but Chelsea have it all to do in Germany.

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2pts Arsenal to win at evens

1pt Olivier Giroud to score anytime at 12/5

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Arsenal v Valencia (2000 BST - BT Sport 2)

There are plenty of similarities between these two, but not in the way they'd like as they're both woefully out of form in their domestic leagues and both are now facing a tough battle to make the Champions League by making the top four.

Valencia have lost three of the last five while the Gunners have lost three in a row as they've both lost ground in the top four race, meaning the Europa League may offer the best route back into Europe's elite competition next season.

Unai Emery beat Valencia as Sevilla boss in the Europa League semis five years ago and he's the master at this competition - as he showed in the last round when Arsenal were very impressive in disposing of Napoli, but their form in the league since has been a huge worry.

It's not unusual for Emery teams to fade towards the end of the season when they're chasing Europa League glory, and that may well be the case again as Arsenal have been incredible at home in this competition and haven't even conceded on home turf in this campaign.

As a former Valencia boss, Emery knows all about the opposition, who will miss former Gunner Francis Coquelin through suspension and probably Denis Cheryshev and Geoffrey Kondogbia through injury - all of which makes it a huge uphill battle for the Spaniards who you suspect will be happy enough to just grab an away goal.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Valencia (Sky Bet odds: 15/2)

Best Bet: Arsenal to win at Evens

Arsenal - Valencia - Opta stats

  • Arsenal have reached the semi-final stage of European competitions in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993/94-1994/95, when they ultimately made the finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup two seasons running.
  • This is Valencia’s first European semi-final appearance since 2013/14, when they reached the same stage of this competition before being eliminated by a Sevilla side that were managed by current Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
  • Arsenal have faced Valencia on five previous occasions in all competitions, winning just once (D2 L2), in a Champions League quarter-final first leg in 2000/01 – Valencia eliminated them via away goals.
  • Arsenal have kept nine clean sheets in their last 11 European games, conceding just four goals in total in that period.
  • Arsenal manager Unai Emery has reached the semi-finals of the Europa League for the fifth time – no other manager has done so on more than three occasions (Jorge Jesus and Rafael Benítez both on three).
  • Valencia boss Marcelino García Toral has been defeated just once in his last 19 games in the Europa League (W14 D4), though it was away from home against English opposition – 0-3 vs Liverpool in May 2016 as Villarreal boss.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Chelsea (2000 BST - BT Sport 3)

This is by far Chelsea's toughest Europa League test so far against a German side that managed to overturn a 4-2 first leg deficit to dump Benfica out in the quarter-finals and in Luka Jovic have one of the hottest young strikers in Europe.

These two teams are the top two scorers in the Europa League, while Olivier Giroud is the tournament's top scorer, so there should be a few goals going in - and while Chelsea's domestic away form has been patchy at best, in this competition they've been coasting through the rounds having won every game in the knockout stages.

With a boisterous home crowd behind Eintracht this will be more like a top-level Premier League away game for Chelsea, and they've struggled immensely in those so far this season, so despite fancying them to get through to the final I'm reluctant to push the button on them winning this first leg.

With Eintracht sticking four past Lazio, Marseille and Shakhtar, they're not afraid of piling up the goals and Chelsea will have to weather something of a storm, especially early on, but with Hazard expected to play and Giroud red-hot in this competition, Chelsea should at least get an away goal that will help them for the second leg.

Prediction: Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 Chelsea (Sky Bet odds: 9/1)

Bet bet: Olivier Giroud to score anytime at 12/5

Eintracht Frankfurt v Chelsea - Opta stats

  • These two sides have never previously faced off; Eintracht have lost at home to English opposition just once before in all European competitions – 0-1 vs Nottingham Forest in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1967/68.
  • Chelsea have lost just one of their last 10 games against German sides in all European competitions (W5 D4), and have won their last two such games in Germany, both versus Schalke in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
  • Eintracht have played 10 Europa League games at the Commerzbank-Arena, winning eight times and drawing twice; they haven’t trailed for a single minute in those games.
  • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is unbeaten in his last 13 games in the Europa League (W12 D1). The only manager to go on a longer run without defeat since the competition was rebranded in 2009/10 is Jürgen Klopp – 14 games (W6 D8) with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool between October 2010 and April 2016.
  • Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic and Filip Kostic have created a combined 12 chances for one another in the Europa League this season; no duo has combined for more.
  • Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud has scored 10 goals in this season’s Europa League – the last player to score more than 10 in a single season in this competition was Radamel Falcao with 12 for Atletico Madrid in 2011/12.


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