Arsenal will be looking to join north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the last-16 of the UEFA Europa League when they face Portuguese outfit Benfica in the second-leg of their last-32 tussle in Athens this evening.
Spurs became the first side to put themselves in the hat for Friday’s draw by dispatching of Austrian outfit Wolfsberger AS at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Goals from Carlos Vinicius (2), Dele Alli and Gareth Bale sealed a comfortable 4-0 win for Jose Mourinho’s troops, sealing an overall victory of 8-1 on aggregate.
But whilst the draw was favourable for Spurs, Arsenal were handed a much tougher assignment in the shape of Benfica. Following last week’s first-leg in Italy, this evening’s second-leg will resume with the tie evenly balanced at 1-1, meaning it could go either way.
Whilst Arsenal and Spurs have been competing in the Europa League this week, Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City have been in Champions League action, facing both Atletico Madrid and Borussia Monchengladbach, respectively.
Whilst both ties were tricky tests, both Chelsea and City came through them with their heads held high, recording 1-0 and 2-0 wins, respectively.
City’s victory over Monchengladbach sealed their 19th consecutive victory in all competitions, as they kept their hopes of winning the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, which will see them go up against Spurs in the final at the end of April, and the Champions League alive.
City have once again highlighted that they are a global force and are determined to swoop a cluster of trophies come the end of the campaign.
But to have put together a winning run of 19 games speaks volumes about the talent that City posses within their ranks, with the signing of Ruben Dias last summer have stiffened up their defence, in turn allowing their attacking stars to weave their magic at the other end of the pitch without the threat of leaving the backdoor open at the other end of the pitch.
Following the win over Monchengladbach, Pep Guardiola – the City chief – was asked what the secret was behind City’s recent domination. Whilst many managers would have put it down to hard work, desire and perhaps even a little bit of luck, Guardiola issued an answer that not many probably would have expected.
He said: “We have a lot of money to buy a lot of incredible players.”
With a statement like that, you most certainly cannot knock the Spaniard’s honesty. City have, for many years, been the leading light when it has come to spending huge amounts of money on players. But to their credit, they have got the bulk of their transfer business bang on the money.
In recent years, the additions of Joao Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling, to name a few, have all been outstanding pieces of business.
Guardiola has built a winning machine that is capable of consistently winning games at a cantor with barely any fuss.
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With City having set the tone in England, certainly this season, it will act as a warning to both Arsenal and Spurs that if they wish to reach the heights City are at, they need to significantly loosen the purse strings and splash the cash.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic still impacting football’s finances massively and the prospect of a takeover in the works at the Emirates Stadium, both sides still have a way to go before they can even think about competing with City on an even keel.