Bengaluru, May 9: A return to Europe's elite competition -- UEFA Champions League -- will be the biggest incentive as Arsenal take on Valencia in the second-leg semifinal of the Europa League at the Mestalla Stadium on Thursday (May 9).
Having blown away their chances of finishing in the Premier League's top four after the recent 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, winning Europe's second-biggest prize is their only realistic route back into the Champions League.
And Arsenal have the advantage after having won the first leg at home 3-1, thanks to a brace from Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal's defence has been much criticised, but after a shaky start to the first leg, it proved sufficiently solid to keep Marcelino Toral's side at arm's length in the second half and they will be hoping to continue from where they had left off at the Emirates Stadium. While the Gunners' lead makes them slight favourites, Mestalla is a daunting place though and a Valencia fightback just cannot be ruled out.
If the Gunners prevail at Mestalla, an all-English final is very much on the cards with Chelsea contesting the other last-four encounter at Stamford Bridge having drawn 1-1 away to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Unbeaten in UEFA Europa League right throughout this season, Chelsea are favourites to advance to the final and the fact that Eden Hazard will likely start gives them the extra edge. Yet, Frankfurt have made a habit of overturning the odds in this competition and going by the results of UEFA Champions League quarterfinals where Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur staged remarkable comeback wins, nothing can be ruled out in the 'Beautiful Game'.
A key sub-plot in the match will be the Olivier Giroud vs Martin Hinteregger battle. Giroud, who is Europa League's current top scorer with 10 goals, should have Hazard alongside him, but if Hinteregger can keep his influence to a minimum Frankfurt will certainly fancy their chances of pulling off an upset win.
The winners of the two ties will face off in the one-off final at Azerbaijan's Baku Stadium on May 29, with the champion earning a direct entry to next season's Champions League.
May 10, 12.30 am IST
Europa League semifinal 2nd legs
Valencia vs Arsenal at Mestalla Stadium
(Arsenal leads 3-1 after 1st leg) (Live on SONY TEN 2)
Chelsea vs Eintracht Frankfurt at Stamford Bridge
(1-1 after 1st leg) (Live on SONY TEN 1)