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The Europa League has become an “attractive” tournament everyone wants to win, says Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
Emery’s side hold a 3-1 advantage over Valencia after the first leg of their semi-final with the second leg taking place in Spain on Thursday.
The Spaniard won the trophy three times as Sevilla boss and says the incentive of a Champions League spot for the winners has improved the tournament.
“It’s an attractive title and it’s getting more attractive,” said Emery.
“I first competed for this title when it was still the Uefa Cup and was a lesser title than it is now.
“It has grown and I have seen that shift. Giving teams a Champions League place through the Europa League is a fair reward and it’s a title they all want to win.
“It’s an important title for those teams not in the Champions League – and for some who drop into it as a second chance, like Valencia did this season.”
Emery managed Valencia from 2008 to 2012 and then won the Europa League in 2014, 2015 and 2016 while in charge of Sevilla.
“The first time I won it with Sevilla, we didn’t get Champions League access; the second time, we did,” said the 47-year-old in his first season as Arsenal boss.
“The demands are high and everyone wants it, as a title, not just a way in [to the Champions League]. At any club like Arsenal or Valencia, titles have to be the objectives.
“Arsenal only have two European titles in their history: the old Fairs Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup, neither of which [still] exist, so I have a lot of ambition to win a title.”
Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at home against Brighton on Sunday all but ended their hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four.
“We started with two possible routes to the Champions League, one through the Premier League and the second through the Europa League,” added Emery.
“We’re finished in the Premier League, no possibility, but we have a possibility in this competition.
“With big ambition, full motivation, strong mentality, I want to enjoy this game. Games like this, away, difficult team, for an important target is all positive for us.”
Marcelino aims to take inspiration from Liverpool
Like Arsenal, Valencia are fifth in their domestic league with the Europa League representing their best chance of securing Champions League football.
Mouctar Diakhaby gave the Spanish side an early lead in London but two goals from Alexandre Lacazette and an injury-time third from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal a healthy advantage.
Valencia coach Marcelino says his side can take inspiration from Liverpool – who overturned a three-goal first-leg deficit by beating Barcelona 4-0 on Tuesday to reach the Champions League final.
“That game demonstrates that anything can happen,” said Marcelino.
“It’s a lesson that tells us if we play to our maximum we’ll have the chance to make it to the final.
“Every game is different and just because Liverpool beat Barcelona it doesn’t mean we have to knock out Arsenal, but if we do pull it off it’s because we believed we could be in the final.”
- No team has lost the first leg of a Uefa Cup/Europa League semi-final by two or more goals and gone through since Espanyol did it against Club Brugge in 1988.
- In total, five of the previous 28 teams to lose the first leg of a Uefa Cup/Europa League semi-final by two or more goals have ended up progressing.
- Including finals, Arsenal manager Unai Emery has won his past 18 Europa League knockout ties, last being eliminated from the competition in the 2011-12 semi-finals -with Valencia.
- Arsenal have never lost a European tie in which they won the first leg by two or more goals, progressing from all 27 previously.
- Valencia are looking to reach their first major European final since the 2004 Uefa Cup, when they beat Marseille 2-0 under Rafael Benitez.
- Arsenal’s last appearances in a European final was in 2006, losing the Champions League showpiece against Barcelona. They have lost their past three major European finals (1995 Cup Winners Cup, 2000 UEFA Cup, 2006 Champions League).
- Valencia have won both of their two previous home games against Arsenal, beating them 1-0 in the 2000-01 Champions League quarter-final and 2-1 in the 2002-03 Champions League second group stage.
- Valencia were unbeaten in 20 home games in all competitions (won 15, drew five) – but then lost their most recent match at Mestalla Stadium, 1-0 to Eibar in La Liga on 28 April.
- Valencia’s Kevin Gameiro has been directly involved in 10 goals in his last 11 starts in home Europa League games, scoring nine and assisting one.
- Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette has scored eight goals in his last 10 Europa League knockout stage games.