Arsenal FC will hope to prolong their 23-match unbeaten home record in the UEFA Champions League and ensure an unhappy homecoming for ex-Gunner Robert Pirès as their quarter-final against Villarreal CF concludes.
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Unbeaten in 23 home matches in the UEFA Champions League proper, Arsenal FC will look to extend that formidable record when Villarreal CF visit for the conclusion of their quarter-final tie with the teams level at 1-1.
• Arsène Wenger's men have not lost at home in the competition proper – be it at their old Highbury home or the Arsenal Stadium – since going down 2-1 to Chelsea FC in a quarter-final second leg in April 2004.
• The Gunners' impressive sequence includes their 1-0 victory against Villarreal at Highbury in the semi-final first leg in 2005/06, which remains the only defeat that Manuel Pellegrini's side have suffered on English soil.
• Villarreal have shown they can defend in England – as goalless draws at Manchester United FC in 2005/06 and again in this season's group stage illustrate – but whether they can make an impact at the other end of the pitch remains to be seen.
• Arsenal's record suggests it will not be easy for they have yet to concede at home in Europe this season and have leaked just seven goals overall during their 23-game unbeaten sequence. With clean sheets in all four of their home matches this season, they have not conceded a UEFA Champions League goal at the Arsenal Stadium in 424 minutes, since Dirk Kuyt's 26th-minute strike for Liverpool FC in last season's quarter-final first leg.
• The north London club had Emmanuel Adebayor to thank for salvaging a 1-1 draw in the first leg of this tie, the Togolese striker scoring with a stunning overhead kick in the 66th minute to cancel out Marcos Senna's own spectacular effort in the tenth minute.
• Arsenal have earned an away draw in the first leg of a UEFA club competition tie on four previous occasions, and ultimately won two of those contests. Both defeats came in the European Champion Clubs' Cup, against SL Benfica (1-1 away, 1-3 at home) in the 1991/92 second round and Chelsea (1-1 away, 1-2 at home) in the 2003/04 quarter-finals. En route to lifting the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1993/94, however, Arsenal eliminated Torino FC in the quarter-finals (0-0 away, 1-0 at home) and Paris Saint-Germain FC in the semi-finals (1-1 away, 1-0 at home).
• Villarreal, similarly, have drawn a home first leg four times, most recently in this season's first knockout round against Panathinaikos FC when a 1-1 draw in Spain was followed by a 2-1 triumph in Athens. That was one of three ties the Spanish side have won in these circumstances. ES Troyes Aube Champagne (0-0, 3-0) were overcome in the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup semi-finals and Trabzonspor (0-0, 3-2) defeated in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup first round. Villarreal's campaign in the latter competition came to an end after a goalless semi-final first leg at El Madrigal was followed by a 1-0 defeat at Valencia CF.
• Whatever the outcome it promises to be an emotional occasion for Villarreal midfielder Robert Pirès. Prior to moving to El Madrigal in summer 2006, the Frenchman had spent six seasons with Arsenal, during which he won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups. Voted the English Football Writers' Player of the Year in 2002, he made 284 appearances, scoring 84 goals.
• Pirès was in the Arsenal lineup when these sides met for the first time in London on 19 April 2006. Kolo Touré's 41st-minute effort earned Arsenal a narrow win in that UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg and it would prove the only goal of the entire tie as Wenger's charges advanced to the final.
• The full lineups that evening were:
Arsenal: Jens Lehmann, Emmanuel Eboué, Kolo Touré, Philippe Senderos, Mathieu Flamini, Aleksandr Hleb (Dennis Bergkamp 80), Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fàbregas, Robert Pirès, Fredrik Ljungberg (Robin van Persie 81), Thierry Henry.
Villarreal: Mariano Barbosa, Javi Venta, Quique Álvarez, César Arzo, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Marcos Senna, Alessio Tacchinardi, Juan Sorín (Josico 73), Juan Román Riquelme, José María (Guillermo Franco 55), Diego Forlán (Javier Calleja 94).
• Arsenal went on to lose the 2006 UEFA Champions League final 2-1 against another Spanish outfit, FC Barcelona, their third defeat against opponents from Spain in a UEFA final. They lost 5-4 on penalties to Valencia following a goalless draw in the 1979/80 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final and succumbed 2-1 to Real Zaragoza in the final of the same competition in 1994/95.
• Classing their 1980 shoot-out loss to Valencia as a defeat, their overall record against Spanish sides is: W8 D5 L11. Their home record is: W6 D2 L2.
• Arsenal were 3-0 winners against Sevilla FC the last time they faced a Spanish club on home soil in September 2007. Cesc Fàbregas, Robin van Persie and Eduardo da Silva got the Gunners' goals that night.
• Villarreal's overall record against English clubs is: W3 D6 L1. In England their record is: W1 D2 L1. Their sole victory was a 2-1 success at Everton FC in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.
• Arsenal enter the tie as the more experienced European campaigners – this will be their fourth UEFA Champions League quarter-final in six years, and sixth overall.
• Arsenal's quarter-final record in the competition is: P5 W1 L4.
• Villarreal's quarter-final record in the competition is: P1 W1 L0.
• Arsenal advanced only after a nerve-shredding shoot-out against their last-16 opponents AS Roma, prevailing 7-6 on penalties after a 1-1 aggregate draw (1-0 home, 0-1 away). Prior to facing Roma, they had taken second spot in Group G with a record of W3 D2 L1.
• Villarreal reached their second UEFA Champions League quarter-final by beating Greek side Panathinaikos 3-2 on aggregate in the last 16. Prior to that, Pellegrini's men had finished second in Group E with a record of W2 D3 L1.
• Arsenal have overcome FC Porto (4-0), FC Dynamo Kyiv and Roma (both 1-0) and drawn 0-0 with Fenerbahçe SK in their previous home games this season. Villarreal, meanwhile, drew at Manchester United (0-0) and Aalborg BK (2-2) and lost at Celtic FC (2-0) prior to their victory at Panathinaikos in their away matches.
• Both teams bettered Italian opposition in the 2005/06 quarter-finals, Villarreal ousting FC Internazionale Milano while Arsenal beat Juventus.
• Arsenal's only previous UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Spanish opposition pitted them against Valencia in 2000/01 and ended in an away goals defeat after a 2-2 aggregate draw.
• Besides Pirès, another ex-Gunner in the Villarreal squad is Pascal Cygan. The defender made 63 Premier League appearances in his four years at Arsenal.
• Villarreal's Spanish internationals Joan Capdevila, Santi Cazorla and Senna featured alongside Fàbregas in Spain's UEFA EURO 2008™-winning team. Forward Guillermo Franco, meanwhile, is a colleague of Arsenal's Carlos Vela in the Mexico squad.
• AC Milan's semi-final defeat of Manchester United in May 2007 was the last time an English team lost to a foreign opponent in a UEFA Champions League knockout tie.
• Arsenal's record in penalty shoot-outs in Europe is:
7-6 v Roma, 2008/09 UEFA Champions League first knockout round
1-4 v Galatasaray SK, 1999/00 UEFA Cup final
3-2 v Sampdoria, 1994/95 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup semi-final
4-5 v Valencia, 1979/80 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final
• Villarreal have won both their previous shoot-outs:
3-1 v Club Atlético de Madrid, 2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup final
4-3 v Torino, 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round
• Whoever prevails will meet the winners of the Porto-Manchester United quarter-final in a semi-final to be played on Wednesday 29 April and Tuesday 5 May. Arsenal or Villarreal would have home advantage in the second leg.