MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone called on his side’s supporters to create an explosive atmosphere to push his team into the Europa League final when they host Arsenal in Thursday’s semi-final second leg.
Atletico left the first leg at the Emirates Stadium with a 1-1 draw having played most of the game with 10 men after Sime Vrsjalko was sent off, defending with their backs against the wall while Arsenal dominated but failed to capitalise.
Atletico have reached three European finals under Simeone, winning the 2012 Europa League final against Athletic Bilbao and losing the Champions League showpieces in 2014 and 2016 to Real Madrid.
Arsenal have made it to two European finals under Arsene Wenger, who is leaving the club at the end of the season after 22 years, losing the 2000 UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray and the 2006 Champions League final to Barcelona.
“We need positive energy and the stadium to explode,” Simeone told a news conference. “We have a huge will to get to the final.”
Simeone’s success with Atletico has been built on a rock-solid defence, intense pressing and making the most of their chances and the Argentine coach was under no illusions as to how his side will play against Arsenal, knowing that a goalless draw would be enough to send the Spaniards through.
“We will try to be very well organised,” said Simeone, whose side have not conceded a goal in their last 11 games in all competitions at their home the Wanda Metropolitano, last letting in a goal against Girona on Jan. 20.
“We will try to be very direct and blunt and live every second at the maximum intensity knowing how important each ball is.”
Simeone was sent off along with Vrsaljko in the first leg and long-time assistant German ‘Mono Burgos will be on the sidelines in his place.
Thursday will be Wenger’s 250th European game as a coach and getting past Atletico and beating either Olympique de Marseille or Salzburg in the final in Lyon is his last chance to sign out on his long Arsenal career on a high.
The Frenchman won the Premier League three times and seven FA Cups since taking over at Arsenal in 1996 although his legacy has been tarnished by failing to compete for league titles in recent years or go beyond the last 16 of the Champions League since 2010.
Arsenal have also failed to finish in the top four in the league in the last two seasons and winning the Europa League is their last chance to avoid missing out on Champions League qualification for a second year in a row.
“The target is to get to 251 European games,” said Wenger.
“The next game is always the most important in my life. It influences the future of my club. That’s why it’s a very, very big game for us. Will we qualify for the Champions League or not?”
Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond