Despite defeating Napoli over two legs in the quarter-final, Arsenal need to be wary of Valencia. History is evidence that the Spanish team could spell Arsenal’s doom and take away whatever positivity is left in their season.
Arsenal and Valencia have locked horns in three European ties and the latter have come out on top on all three occasions. The London-based club triumphed on only one occasion, only to have it undone in the return leg.
When the two teams first squared off – in a European Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1980, 120 minutes were not enough to settle the tie. Valencia emerged winners in the penalty shoot-out that ensued. Mario Kempes and William Brady both missed penalties for their respective teams and Valencia won the game in sudden death, with Graham Rix failing to net the decisive penalty for Arsenal.
In the 2000/01 season, the two sides were pitted against each other in the quarter-final of the Champions League. The Gunners took a 2-1 advantage to Valencia after goals from Thierry Henry and Ray Parlour earned them a crucial win at Highbury.
But John Carew struck late in the second half at the Mestalla stadium to ensure that Valencia progressed to the semis on away goals. Thus, the Spanish team enjoyed their second win over Arsenal in as many ties.
The very next year, Arsene Wenger’s men were handed an opportunity to avenge their loss when they faced Valencia in the Champions League yet again. A goal-less draw was the outcome of the first leg of the second group stage tie played at Highbury.
A John Carew brace overcame Terry Henry’s goal to hand Valencia a 2-1 win at home in the return leg. Arsenal thus missed out on the quarter-finals, finishing third in the second group stage. Valencia topped the group only to be knocked out by Inter in the next round.
The Europa League semis next week will be the first time the two teams lock horns ever since and Arsenal have a tough mountain to climb and break the voodoo.