Preview: Villarreal vs Arsenal, Unai Emery returns to face Arsenal in the semi-finals of Europa League
Villarreal welcome Arsenal for the first leg of the Semi-finals of the Europa League on Thursday night. This fixture would bring Arsenal face to face with their ex-boss, Unai Emery. Emery has an excellent legacy in this tournament. He led Sevilla to three titles and renamed the league cheekily as Unai Emery League. His unbeaten Villarreal side would love to pile some more misery on his ex-employers and exact revenge.
🤩 The semi-finals are 𝘀𝗲𝘁! 🤩
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) April 15, 2021
Villarreal’s inconsistent run in the La Liga has just put them outside of European places. Emery’s side led the league in the initial stages but slowly started falling down the table. Their recent run has started to dent their European ambitions for the next season. Winning the Europa League presents them a clear chance at doing that.
Arsenal are having a horrible season in the Premier League. The possibility of missing out on a top-half finish scares the North London faithful. However, Europe has brought them joy. Mikel Arteta’s Gunners are the highest-scoring team in the competition.
Nicolas Pepe, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Alexander Lacazette are having field days against the oppositions. Europe League title is the only thing that would salvage Arteta’s first full season in charge. This triumph would secure the Spaniard’s job and provide much-needed European football for the next season.
Villarreal comparatively have lesser issues on the injury front. Midfielder Vicente Iborra is the only notable absentee. Francis Coquelin might come back into the side to face his former side.
Sergio Asenjo, Juan Foyth, Raul Albio, Pau Torres, Alberto Moreno; Samuel Chukwueze, Francis Couqelin, Dani Parejo, Manu Trigueros; Gerard Moreno, Paco Alcacer
Arsenal are sweating on the fitness updates of their star forwards Aubameyang and Lacazette as they recover from Malaria and Hamstring issue respectively. Defenders David Luiz and Kieran Tierney are out for the fixture. Arteta has a major call to make in goal after Bernd Leno’s howler against Everton in the premier league. This makes make Granit Xhaka a makeshift left-back again.
Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari, Granit Xhaka; Dani Ceballos, Thomas Partey; Nicolas Pepe, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka; Aubameyang
Villarreal’s strike twins Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer can single-handedly decide games. They are joint second highest goal scorers in the competition with six goals. The link-up play, passing and finishing complementing their chemistry is a delight to watch for the Yellow Submarine.
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) April 18, 2021
Nicolas Pepe has enjoyed a better second season at Arsenal. After a big money from Lille, he has struggled to adapt in the Premier League right away. In his second season, he has slowly gained confidence and is producing results. The winger has 5 goals to his name in the cup and looks to add more.
Success in this tournament is a must for both sides to ensure European football for the next season. Also, Emery coming back to Arsenal adds an interesting subplot to this game.
Many of the questions would soon be answered on the pitch.
We can expect a crazy goal-scoring fest as defences of both sides are not on top at the moment. FootTheBall predicts a 2-3 win to Arsenal as their star power can best Villarreal’s grit.