Arsenal vs. Valencia, Thursday 2nd May, 20:00
Both sides have been hampered with injury recently as the Gunners have lost three on the bounce in the absence of Aaron Ramsey, while Valencia have lost their last two without the services of Denis Cheryshev and Geoffrey Kondogbia.
The visitors will also be shorn of suspended ex-Arsenal enforcer Francis Coquelin in this first-leg clash and with too many holes to plug in midfield, we don’t think Ramsey’s unavailability should be the crucial factor in this initial encounter.
Unai Emery’s experience in this tournament could however prove a telling factor. He’s won this competition a record three times and has enjoyed fantastic results on home turf, especially in the knockout rounds alone where he’s overseen 16 victories from 19 matches since 2011/12.
The Gunners will also draw encouragement from the record of teams at home in the first leg of a Europa League semi-final, which reads W12-D4-L2 since the tournament was rebranded in 2009/10.
Home form has certainly been critical for Arsenal this term and prior to their 3-2 defeat against Palace in their last outing at the Emirates, they had racked up eight consecutive victories as they kept their opponents’ attack at bay in six of these.
They’ve also kept five clean sheets in a row at home in this competition, while they produced impressive 2-0 (H) and 1-0 (A) triumphs over a talented Napoli outfit in the previous round to make it this far. Seven of Valencia’s last eight defeats since late November have come on their travels and so the Gunners should be aiming to make home comforts pay.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Chelsea, Thursday 2nd May, 20:00
Chelsea would be foolish if they take Eintracht Frankfurt lightly as the Germans have faced some decent opposition to reach the semi-finals, winning all six group games in a pool featuring both Marseille and Lazio, while the knockout rounds saw them dispose of Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter and Benfica.
By contrast, Chelsea have had it easy with the best team they’ve faced being Slavia Prague in the last round. Up until this point, Maurizio Sarri has seen fit to heavily rotate in this competition, with star man Eden Hazard only starting two of their 12 games and finishing none of them, while he didn’t even feature at all in seven.
The Italian will set out something akin to his best team here and with that in mind, we wouldn’t pay too much attention to Chelsea’s 11 wins in this tournament so far against far weaker opposition.
Adi Hutter’s men have been particularly impressive at the Commerzbank-Arena, where they’re ably supported by a raucous crowd and have put four goals past Lazio (4-1), Marseille (4-0) and Shakhtar (4-1).
That will be a concern for the Blues given their road form, where excluding those aforementioned easy Europa League ties, they’ve gone just W2-D1-L6 since the turn of the year as they failed to even score in each of those defeats.
The two victories came in narrow wins over Championship-bound Fulham and Cardiff, and such a record will hardly scare Frankfurt, who are currently fourth in the Bundesliga and on course to qualify for next seasons’ Champions League.
The hosts may have hit a slightly rough patch recently as they’re just W1-D2-L2 over their past five outings, but their key strength this term has been the scintillating front three of Sebastian Haller, Ante Rebic and the in-demand Luka Jovic.
The former is now back from injury having missed this recent spell of games and together, the three of them have helped Frankfurt bag 28 goals in this tournament so far (only Chelsea with 30 have netted more) and we suspect they’ll take a lead to Samford Bridge.
*all odds are subject to change