Arsenal travel to Villarreal on Thursday for their most important match of the season so far, hoping to get the jump on their Europa League semi-final opponents in an essential first leg.
The English heavyweights come up against former boss Unai Emery, who left north London in 2019 but is within reach of winning his fourth Europa League crown. The Spaniard previously won this competition three years running while at Sevilla (2014-16), and his expertise has once again come into effect as Villarreal look to beat Arsenal for the first time in their fifth overall encounter.
The Gunners have played European soccer in some form every year since 1996, but Mikel Arteta’s side know the Europa League crown is likely their only viable route back as they sit 10th in the Premier League.
What TV Channel is Villarreal-Arsenal on?
The Gunners can’t afford to misfire against a familiar face as they cling to the prospect of European soccer next season, and Galavision will broadcast kick-off in Spain from 3 p.m. ET. You can live stream Europa League matches on fuboTV.
How to Watch Villarreal vs. Arsenal
When: Thursday, April 29
Where: Estadio de la Cerámica, Villarreal, Spain
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (watch for free)
Emery, 49, left the Emirates Stadium not long after leading Arsenal to a Europa League runner-up finish behind Chelsea in 2019. Speaking to the media ahead of the first leg, however, it wasn’t only the players who were under his charge at the club who caught his eye in the build-up:
Emery also lifted the lid on a curious exchange with successor Arteta, in which he offered his old London abode to the incumbent Arsenal chief:
Both teams enter the semi-finals on the back of confident displays in the previous round. Villarreal beat Dinamo Zagreb home and away to remain unbeaten in 12 Europa League games this term, while Arsenal recovered from a home draw against Slavia Prague to win 5-1 on aggregate.
Alexandre Lacazette played a critical role with two goals against the Czech outfit last time out, complemented by first-half goals from Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka. It was feared the Frenchman could miss the trip to Spain through injury, but Arteta told reporters on Wednesday that Lacazette is “in contention,” as are captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Kieran Tierney.
David Luiz is Arsenal’s only definite absence on Thursday as the guests hope to go eight matches unbeaten away from home. Avoiding defeat in Spain looks essential for the travelling team, however, given Arsenal have also failed to win their last five games at the Emirates.
Villarreal, meanwhile, have recorded back-to-back losses for only the second time this season after they were unable to beat Barcelona on Sunday despite taking an early lead through Samuel Chukwueze:
Pervis Estupinan’s return to fitness means Emery also has just the one absentee in defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra. Manu Trigueros was sent off in the league loss to Barcelona on the weekend, but the playmaker will be free to start in their European endeavors.
Emery has been a force to be reckoned with in Europa League terms, tied with Giovanni Trapattoni as the most decorated coach in the competition’s history (including its former title, the UEFA Cup). It would be some form of poetic justice for the Spaniard to knock out his former employers and compatriot Arteta as he targets a historic fourth crown, but a positive result at the Estadio de la Cerámica could prove pivotal in that quest.