The first legs of the Europa League semi finals were contested today and here is what happened:
Arsenal 3-1 Valencia
Even though Valencia opened the scoring with an 11th minute goal by Mouctar Diakhaby, Arsenal ended up emerging from the tie as the victors. This was due mostly to the fact that Alexandre Lacazette scored twice, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made things even more difficult for the sixth place La Liga team, netting one in the 90th minute. Arsenal gave their home fans something to be happy about after a series of disappointing performances in the English Premier League. Fifth place Arsenal is well aware that this may be their best bet to play Champions League football next season.
In the post match interviews, Arsenal's manager, Unai Emery was reluctant to show arrogance going into the next leg, even though the scoreline is tipped heavily in their favour. He said that it will be a "50-50 chance" that his team ends up in the finals. Valencia's boss, Marcelino, accepts that the road to the finals will be difficult but says "we can beat Arsenal in the second leg".
Going into the second leg at the Mestalla Stadium, Arsenal should have control of the game and if they are able to keep Valencia out then a spot in the finals is theirs. However, that away goal Diakhaby scored may come in handy in the next leg. If Valencia can manage two goals into Arsenal's net without Arsenal responding they would find themselves in the finals. Valencia should expect Arsenal to score though.
Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Chelsea
Chelsea was forced to settle for a draw in the fixture against the German team Eintracht Frankfurt. Frankfurt stunned the London team when Luka Jovic scored a mid-first-half goal. The German team was really dominant for a period of the game, and their fans were characteristically deafening in the stadium. Chelsea eventually responded to the goal through Pedro right before half time. Coming back from half time Chelsea was much more dominant, but unfortunately were not able to capitalize from the dominance. David Luiz missed a free kick which would have given the Blues another precious away goal.
Eden Hazard - Chelsea's main man - was put on only later in the match. Maurizio Sarri later admitted that he kept Hazard off the field and on the bench to "keep him fresh". Sarri admits that Chelsea has five matches in two weeks, so it was the most reasonable option. Sarri seems to want both top four qualifications and the Europa League trophy.
Going into the second leg, it's likely that Hazard will have more playing time, and thus more of an impact. Expect the Blues to come better at Stamford Bridge. If they play there like they played in the second half of the first leg match, with the addition of actual goals, then they should be fine. It's worth noting that Chelsea has had defensive problems and if Frankfurt can capitalize on them, they would find themselves in the finals instead.