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Villarreal coach Unai Emery on facing Bayern in the Champions League quarter-finals and winning the Europa League

"I don't think about the final," Villarreal coach Unai Emery tells UEFA.com as he focuses on the immediate task: beating Bayern München in the quarter-finals.

Villarreal coach Unai Emery
Villarreal coach Unai Emery Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty

A three-time UEFA Europa League winner as coach of Sevilla, Unai Emery underlined his status as a master of that competition when he led Villarreal to glory last season, beating Manchester United on penalties in the Gdańsk final.

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Having steered the Yellow Submarine to their first ever major honour the 50-year-old is not resting on his laurels, leading his side to the quarter-finals of this season's UEFA Champions League, where they take on Bayern München. He told UEFA.com about his coaching philosophy and why his teams always have a chance of beating even the very top sides.

On what makes Villarreal special

2021 final highlights: Villarreal 1-1 Man. United (11-10 pens)
2021 final highlights: Villarreal 1-1 Man. United (11-10 pens)

It comes down to 23, 24, 25 years of a Villarreal team which I played against as a second division footballer with Toledo. The Villarreal team is special, and it's a steady project with a certain amount of financial power, which gives stability and longevity.

[Before I arrived the] team played in the semi-finals of the [UEFA] Champions League, the [UEFA] Europa League, of the Copa del Rey; they were runners-up in the Spanish league to Real Madrid, but hadn't won a trophy. So to be able to experience that triumphant moment [against Manchester United in last season's UEFA Europa League final], for the team to experience it with me by their side and the other way around, became the converging point. The next step is the Champions League.

All you need to know about Unai Emery

Born: 3 November 1971

Playing career: Real Sociedad, Toledo, Racing Ferrol, Leganés, Lorca

Coaching career: Lorca, Almería, Valencia, Spartak Moskva, Sevilla, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Villarreal

His four UEFA Europa League wins:
2014: Sevilla 0-0 Benfica (aet, Sevilla win 4-2 on pens)
2015: Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 2-3 Sevilla
2016: Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla
2021: Villarreal 1-1 Manchester United (aet, Villarreal win 11-10 on pens)

On keeping his side believing

Every Villarreal goal so far
Every Villarreal goal so far

First of all, there is a lot of analysis of the opponents, so that [the players] know as much as possible. And going back to the start, I always try to give them more work rather than less, give them more information rather than less, tell them more things rather than less, and then to have optimistic expectations but based on a lot of work. And why not? We can beat teams which are better than us.

One day, one of the captains – Raúl Albiol – said: "Coach, you've won the Europa League. We want you to take us on that road". And I said: "That's a lot of pressure; I can take it on, but you need to know something: winning the Europa League, winning a trophy is very, very, very difficult."

And the only way is to take [it] match after match, day after day; to enjoy the journey working and to not think about the end, to not think that we're going to win. Think, in each game, how we're going to achieve to be better, find the answers to the questions asked by our opponents. And that may make it possible that in the end, we may say: "Here we are."

On taking a methodical approach

Unai Emery's Europa League love affair
Unai Emery's Europa League love affair

In football I build with everything I have in front of me. But I don't think about the final. I don't know where the Champions League final is this year. I don't know what city. I didn't know where the final of the Europa League was last year. Because they are very far away. I have to try to beat what is in front of me. Right now, it is Bayern. I know when we're going to play against Bayern at home, and when we are going to play them in Munich. And that is the only thing that I have to think about.

On facing Bayern for a semi-final place

Bayern [are] very different to Juventus. [They are] also very good – another favourite [to win the Champions League] – who are going to do different things. Tactically, we will have to do different things, of course, because it's different. And that's what you like, that motivates you, that attracts you, the variety of football in different countries.

But above all you – as much as you are able – will be competing against Arsenal, against Manchester United, against Chelsea, against Atalanta, against Juventus, and you will always have chances to win. Now we will play against Bayern Munich. We are capable, and we have chances to be able to win.

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