Madrid: Francis Coquelin has warned his former club Arsenal that Valencia are ready to exploit their fragility away from home and pull off another stirring fightback in the Europa League semi-final on Thursday.
Valencia trail 3-1 heading into the second leg at Mestalla after Alexandre Lacazette’s double and a late volley from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put Arsenal firmly in charge of the tie.
Coquelin was suspended for the opener at Emirates Stadium but will return this week to face the club where he spent 10 years after joining as a 17-year-old in 2008.
“It would be a very special feeling to win against Arsenal, especially because I couldn’t play in the first game,” Coquelin said on Tuesday. “But even more it would be special to reach the final and make another small bit of history with this club.”
Coquelin left Arsenal in January 2018 after struggling to get first-team football under Arsene Wenger and the Frenchman has been revitalised this season, having been handed a more creative role in midfield by Marcelino.
Despite the appointment of Unai Emery as coach, Arsenal’s weakness in away games has continued. Their away record this season is the 10th best in the Premier League.
“Away from home they are a different team,” Coquelin said. “They drop the intensity a little bit and that means we can score goals and do damage, especially with the attack that we have.”
Valencia have shown themselves capable of a cup comeback this season too. In the Copa del Rey, they trailed Getafe and Real Betis before beating both en route to the final, which they will play against Barcelona on May 25.
“The team is ready to make a comeback,” said Coquelin. “The goal we scored there helps us a lot. It will be a difficult game but with the quality we have, we believe we can do it.
“The fans always help us a lot at home, they did against Getafe in the cup when we made a spectacular comeback and the team is ready to do the same again.”
Like Arsenal, Valencia’s hopes of Champions League qualification are likely to rest on the Europa League, given they sit three points adrift of Getafe in La Liga, with two games left to play.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will need to beat Burnley and hope Tottenham lose at home to Everton this weekend, while also overturning an eight-goal swing in goal difference to make the Premier League’s top four.
“We have to use our desire to win but also use our heads and play with composure,” said striker Rodrigo.
“We do not have to score a goal in the fifth minute to be able to come back and we can’t be reckless because a goal for them will make it a lot more difficult.
“They have a style of play that can help us in some ways because they are an exciting team that likes to play. I don’t believe they will put seven players in front of the goal. Maybe, but I don’t think so.”
After a slow start to the season, Valencia are still competing for two trophies and have a chance, albeit slim, to finish in the top four.
“Our mentality is to go for everything,” added Rodrigo. “We are a team that always fights to the end and we have won many games in the last minute. We want to do it again on Thursday.”
Europa League semi-finals
Second leg (first leg scores in brackets)
Valencia (1) v Arsenal (3)
Chelsea (1) v Eintracht (1)
Both matches kick-off at 11pm