The time has come. After failing to get into a european final in four separate ocassions, the time feels right, and the team is ready. La Liga has taken a backseat as Villarreal has focused in Europe, and with the ideal starting eleven, The Yellow Submarine is ready to fight.
In front is an Arsenal who absolutely needs this trophy, and for more than one reason. The Gunners need to win the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League, and failing to do so would end the club’s dreams of European soccer next season. Villarreal on the other hand is still fighting against Betis and Real Sociedad for that coveted Europa League spot, and that is something that I believe will give the Yellows a bit of stability through the 180 minutes.
Villarreal will likely come out with Rulli on goal, and a defense with Pedraza on the left (watch for his dribbling down the flank), Pau Torres and Albiol, and the ever-versatile Foyth on the right. In the midfield, Capoue, Parejo and Trigueros will bring the ball forward, and the stars up top: Alcacer, Chukwueze, and Sir Gerard Moreno.
The latter will likely be the difference maker on Thursday. I firmly believe that, with the season the striker has signed, either a Premier League or a Spain top-three club will snatch him up (clause is 100m Euro)–but for now, we get to enjoy him, and hopefully he will show Arsenal fans what he can do with a ball at his feet.
On Arsenal’s side, we are hearing that Aubameyang won’t be fully recovered, but rumors are also floating around that he may be in the starting eleven when it’s all said and done. Lacazette, Pepe and Saka are plenty to work with, though.
I feel as though this semifinal is a make-or-break for Arteta. If he does not make the final, and with the team seven points away from European spots in the Premier League, his tenure in London may be shortened by the summer.
Robert Pires, Arsenal’s ambassador and ex-Villarreal player as well, told Radio Vila-Real yesterday: “I think Villarreal has an advantage–and that advantage is called Unai Emery. He did well with Sevilla and Arsenal in the EL even though they lost in the final, and today, again he is in the semifinals. This is his competition.”
Three-Europa League winner Emery is definitely a good card to have in your pocket, and I certainly hope his know-how and experience will be of value in specific moments of the semifinal.
It’s already been told Ad Nauseum, but the 2005 Champions League semifinal left Villarreal with something they had to live with for 15 years. The time is now to get back at them.
Other newsworthy bits from today:
- Samu Chukwueze is part of the shortlist for the best player of the month in La Liga in April, along with Betis’ Claudio Bravo, Atletico’s Angel Corra, and Real Madrid’s Courtois.
- Emery commented on his phone call with Arteta before the ex-Gunner accepted Arsenal’s offer, but weirdly enough, he also mentioned that he tried to sell his house to him. “I had to leave my house over there and on top of talking about my time at Arsenal, the good and what could have gone differently, I tried to see if he’d be interested in my house.”
- Pablo Mari will be in charge of stopping Gerard Moreno–Arsenal’s centerback is actually from the Valencian Community, and mentioned that it was amazing that “at first I had a dream to play alongside them, and now I find myself playing against them in a Europa League semifinal.”
- The Villarreal women’s team got promoted to the Liga Iberdrola, the nation’s first division. Celebrations ensued yesterday after the promotion was confirmed, and now the goal is to stay in the top league in the country next season.