Multiple Europa League winner Unai Emery will welcome former rivals Arsenal to the Estadio de la Ceramica on Thursday for the first leg of the Villarreal Europa League semi-final tie. The Gunners brushed away Slavia Prague 5-1 over two legs while the Yellow Submarine advanced to the final four by defeating Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 on aggregate.
- Pervis Estupinan returned to action against Barcelona on Sunday, leaving Vicente Iborra as the only injury concern.
- Manu Trigueros was given his marching orders in the Blaugrana’s defeat at the weekend but will feature in the Europa League.
- Carlos Bacca could replace Paco Alcacer to partner Gerard Moreno. Unai Emery could stick to his 4-4-2 formation as he did in the Europa League.
- Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette, and Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang will all play against Villarreal. Mikel Arteta has confirmed on Thursday, giving Arsenal a big boost.
- Granit Xhaka will take his place at left-back if Tierney is unable to start with Eddie Nketiah on standby upfront.
- Martin Odegaard has just returned from injury and is looking to retake his place as Arsenal’s No.10 player.
- Villarreal has lost three of their last five matches, which does not bode well for the Yellow Submarine’s chances against Arsenal on Thursday. They have, though just lost one of their 12 games and winning all six of their games at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
- The Gunners have only won two of their last eight competitive games, but they have gone undefeated in their last seven on the road. Arsenal, like Villarreal, comes into this match on the heels of a 1-0 loss to Everton on Friday night.
- Unai Emery is a Europa League master, and he’d love nothing more than to beat his former bosses.
Arsenal’s goal-scoring feats on the road have been admirable in recent weeks, but without Aubameyang or Lacazette leading the way, they would fail to maintain their hot streak. Emery is no stranger to Europa League success, and the ex-Arsenal manager will undoubtedly fantasize about knocking his former club out of the competition, but we believe the Gunners will do enough to earn a draw and set up a tense second leg at the Emirates.
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; Nketiah
Our Prediction: Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal
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