The Europa League is down to its final four teams and there are some very intriguing ties to be played out to decipher who will lift the trophy come the end of the season.
Premier League side Manchester United will take on Serie A side AS Roma as the two remaining strongest teams in the competition, with Arsenal going head-to-head against their former manager when they take on Villarreal.
We’ll preview both knockout ties once again and give our predictions as we have done for every English club tie in the competition so far, starting with Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side taking on former boss Unai Emery’s new team with his Europa League prowess in full flow again.
The La Liga side went through the group stages of the tournament unbeaten, winning five of the six games and conceding just five goals. They were able to finish above Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Sivasspor and Qarabag before being drawn against RB Salzburg in the last 32 of the competition.
They dispatched of the Austrian side winning both home and away, before also beating Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 both home and away to set up a quarter-final tie against Dinamo Zagreb. Emery’s side then won both legs of that tie against the Croatian side, to maintain an unbeaten record throughout the tournament so far this season.
Unai Emery has won the tournament three times before, winning a hat-trick with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016. He also reached the final as manager of the Gunners back in 2019, but they were thumped 4-1 by Chelsea in the final.
He was sacked the following season, allowing for Arteta to take over the reigns where he has struggled to find any sort of consistent form since.
This season he was able to navigate the group stages with relative ease, coming through a group containing Dundalk, Molde and Rapid Wien with six wins from six games. They then took on Benfica in the round of 32 and managed to progress thanks to a late winner from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the second leg, before a last 16 tie against Olympiacos saw them win the home leg 3-1 meaning the 1-0 home defeat still saw them progress.
They then faced off with Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals, where they drew 1-1 at the Emirates Stadium before a thumping 4-0 win in Prague got them to this stage.
Domestically, both sides have had differing seasons too. Villarreal currently sit in seventh place with 49 points from 33 games having lost three of their last four games, while Arsenal sit in tenth in the Premier League with 46 points from 33 games. For both teams this is their final chance at claiming a Champions League place for next season, while for Arsenal it could be their only hope at European football at all.
Arsenal have the better players individually, but Arteta has really struggled to get them playing to their capabilities. Emery has mastered this competition and Villarreal’s undefeated run to this point certainly makes them favourites in my books.
Gerard Moreno is a goalscoring machine this season with 20 in all competitions and with Dani Parejo, Samuel Chukwueze and Paco Alcacer all among the supporting cast they have enough quality to punish Arsenal.
The first game being in Spain is a big advantage to Arsenal since they’ll be at home for the second leg and know what needs to be done to secure qualification, but even still I expect Emery to be able to find the weaknesses in the Gunners side and expose them enough to secure yet another Europa League final.
Villarreal 2-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 1-1 Villarreal
(Villarreal to progress 3-2 on aggregate)