MX23RW : Monday, June 21 17:35:17| >> :120:8050:8050:
Apr 29, 2021 at 8pm UK at Estadio de la Cerámica
Trigueros (5'), Albiol (29')
Torres (37'), Capoue (68')
Capoue (80')
FT(HT: 2-0)
Pepe (73' pen.)
Ceballos (44'), Partey (58'), Aubameyang (90')
Ceballos (57')

Preview: Villarreal vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Villarreal and Arsenal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Serial Europa League winner Unai Emery welcomes old foes Arsenal to the Estadio de la Ceramica for the first leg of Villarreal's Europa League semi-final clash on Thursday.

The Yellow Submarine defeated Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 on aggregate to advance to the final four, whereas the Gunners swept aside Slavia Prague 5-1 over two legs.

Match preview

Villarreal coach Unai Emery reacts in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters

For all of his continental silverware achieved with Sevilla, Emery could not replicate his spate of successes while in the Arsenal dugout, as the Spaniard oversaw a 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in the 2018-19 Europa League final before his ill-fated stint came to an end.

However, the former Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain boss has reinvigorated his managerial career with Villarreal, who have won 11 of their 12 Europa League games this season so far, including a perfect record of six wins from their six home games.

Villarreal have also managed to find the back of the net at least twice in all six of those continental triumphs and ended the Dinamo Zagreb journey in the quarter-finals, but they welcome Arsenal to Spain on the back of two successive league defeats to lowly Alaves and title-chasing Barcelona.

A red card to Manu Trigueros did not help matters against the Blaugrana, but the damage had been done by that point as Antoine Griezmann's brace cancelled out Samuel Chukwueze's opener, and that defeat condemned Villarreal to their third loss in five across all competitions.

Despite a downturn in league form, Emery has unsurprisingly masterminded a stellar run on the European stage as Villarreal bid to claim a first ever Europa League crown, but the last time they made an appearance in the semi-finals was back in the 2015-16 season, when another English side in Liverpool sent them packing.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta pictured on March 6, 2021© Reuters

From a calamitous European Super League fallout, #KroenkeOut protests and a laughable home defeat at the hands of Everton, Mikel Arteta could have hardly envisaged a more challenging week in the Emirates hotseat.

In a tale as old as time, the Gunners huffed and puffed against Everton but just could not put the ball in the back of the net, until Bernd Leno allowed Richarlison's cross to deflect in through his legs as Arsenal failed to win at home for the fifth game in a row.

With any hopes of European qualification via their league position now hanging by the thinnest of threads, Arteta is expected to prioritise continental glory lest they run the risk of a season without European football, and the financial hit that comes with it.

However, the Gunners were simply unplayable in Prague as they stormed to a 4-0 success after another disappointing first leg at home, and they travel to Villarreal on a seven-game unbeaten streak away from home in all competitions - scoring at least three goals in their last four on the road.

Arsenal are also unbeaten in four meetings with Villarreal since 2005 - winning two and drawing two against the La Liga powerhouses - although those two stalemates both came on Villarreal's turf, and they had to rely on a Jens Lehmann penalty save from Juan Roman Riquelme's effort in the semi-finals of the 2005-06 Champions League.

Villarreal Europa League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Villarreal form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • L

Arsenal Europa League form:
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • W

Arsenal form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L

Team News

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates with the match ball after scoring a hat-trick on February 14, 2021© Reuters

Villarreal midfielder Trigueros is fine to play in this match despite his red card in domestic action, but his fellow lynchpin Vicente Iborra remains out with a knee issue.

However, Emery has no other injury concerns apart from Iborra, and Francis Coquelin will also hope to get one over his old club, but he may be restricted to a place on the bench as Dani Parejo and Etienne Capoue continue in the engine room.

Tottenham Hotspur loanee Juan Foyth should continue at right-back, while Pervis Estupinan made his comeback from injury off the bench against Barcelona and will hope to displace Alberto Moreno on the opposite side.

With 26 goals in all competitions to boast this season - as well as six from his last five in Europe - Gerard Moreno will be out to register a goal contribution for the seventh game in a row in the Europa League this week.

Arsenal received a huge boost against Everton as Martin Odegaard returned to the fold following ankle trouble, and Arteta has confirmed that Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kieran Tierney and David Luiz are all in contention to return as well.

However, Arteta is known to be cautious when integrating players back into the team, so the fit-again quartet will hope to make an impact from the bench unless the Spaniard decides to risk them from the off.

Gabriel Magalhaes will hope to replace Pablo Mari at centre-back, while Nicolas Pepe's spot could be at risk if Odegaard returns, but the Ivorian has played a starring role in the Gunners' Europa League campaign so far.

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Asenjo; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan; Chukwueze, Parejo, Capoue, Trigueros; Moreno, Alcacer

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Xhaka; Partey, Ceballos; Saka, Odegaard, Pepe; Lacazette

SM words green background

We say: Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal

Arsenal's goalscoring exploits on the road in recent weeks have been admirable, and they will endeavour to keep that hot streak going now that Aubameyang and Lacazette are back in the fold.

Emery knows a thing or two about Europa League triumphs, and the ex-Arsenal boss is surely dreaming about dumping his former employers out of the tournament, but we think the Gunners will do enough to come away with a draw and set up a nail-biting second leg at the Emirates.

Top tip

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