While most of the other favorites improved their odds of advancing through to the Round of 16 in Leg 1, the favorite in this match shot themselves in the foot and lost on the road. While they remain the favorite in this matchup, it sure has impacted their overall chances in the tournament. I still think they are going to pull it off, but I’m also kind of rooting for the underdog in this one.
This match kicks off from Emirates Stadium in London at 5:55pm GMT (12:55pm EST) on Thursday, 21 February 2019.
What Happened in Leg 1
The favorite in this one is still Arsenal, though the margin has narrowed a bit after they allowed BATE Borisov to defend their home pitch last week. In fact, the five clubs ahead more favored to win all managed to win on the road in their respective matches. Arsenal was the only one that failed to come through and truly played down to their competition.
BATE was utterly outperformed last Thursday, yet they still managed to walk away with a 1-0 victory. Just look at these stats:
- Total attempts on goal – Arsenal 14 – BATE 6
- Possession – Arsenal 71% – BATE 29%
- Passes completed – Arsenal 588 – BATE 121
Had Arsenal shown that dominance against a Premier League club, they probably would have won 2-0 or worse. But somehow, a Belarusian club that is in the midst of a long winter break managed to win the game. Can lightning strike twice at Emirates Stadium?
What the Experts are Saying
Arsenal entered Leg 1 as a nearly five-to-one favorite to advance to the Round of 16 per our friends at FiveThirtyEight. After the loss, they remain favorites (56% to advance), but their decline in those odds was the largest of any club after Leg 1.
What We’re Thinking
BATE had long odds coming into this round, and they still face some of that in Leg 2 despite entering with a 1-0 lead on aggregate. Last Thursday’s loss was Arsenal’s first loss in Europa League this season, and only their ninth across all competitions this year. Drill down further, and Arsenal has only lost three times at Emirates all year: once in Premier League play (to Manchester City), once in the FA Cup (to Manchester United), and once in the EFL Cup (to Tottenham Hotspur). All three of those clubs are currently in the Round of 16 over in Champions League, as well as in the Top 4 of the Premier League.
And yet… Arsenal will be without star Alexandre Lacazette after he was sent off late in Leg 1, and while Arsenal has a deep roster of top talent to pull from, he will be missed in this one. I still think that the Gunners will pull this off, but I’m still hoping that BATE can pull it out and advance to the Round of 16 for the first time in their history. I’m a fan of the underdog story, and BATE advancing would probably be among the largest upsets in European football this year.
Until next time…