After showing great tenacity against CSKA Moscow on Thursday night, Arsenal were drawn against Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Europa League.
The other semi-final sees Marseille and Salzburg lock horns once again just like they did in the group stage with many seeing the winner of the Arsenal v Atletico as the likely tournament victor.
It is without a doubt the hardest draw the Gunners could have received but also a great opportunity to dispose of the toughest opponent left in the tournament.
But it will not be easy as Atletico have proven masters of Europe’s second-tier tournament in recent years.
Four times in the previous eight seasons Spain’s ‘third club’ have reached the final of either the Europa League or Champions League.
Not bad for a side competing domestically alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona. Twice Atleti have won the Europa League (09/10 and 11/12) and will once again have designs on lifting yet another trophy during Diego Simeone’s reign.
It will be a tough ask for Wenger’s men and they now find themselves in a similar position to Premier League rivals Manchester United who went win or bust in the Europa League.
For the Red Devils it paid off and as the Gunners sit thirteen points behind a top-four spot in the league, the same attitude must be taken if Champions League football is to return to the Emirates next season.
Step into the unknown
Remarkably, despite both teams having been European regulars for the last couple of decades, they managed to avoid each other in competitive action with only a club friendly between the pair in 2009 to go on.
Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners that August day with no competitive comparison in the head to head charts available.
This only goes to add more spice to the fixture along with the future of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
Many believe that if the Gunners are booted out then the 68-year-old will pack his bags at the end of the campaign and leave.
It appears the next generation of Arsenal football club rests on this two-legged affair with the first-leg on Thursday 26th April at the Emirates.
It is now a case of all or nothing and if the Gunners are going to do it, they will have to do it the hard way.