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UEFA Europa League final: lowdown on Villarreal

What's their pedigree and how did they get here? A closer look at Villarreal ahead of their UEFA Europa League final meeting with Manchester United.

 Gerard Moreno and Raúl Albiol celebrate against Dynamo
Gerard Moreno and Raúl Albiol celebrate against Dynamo Getty Images

Team news

Possible XI: Rulli/Asenjo; Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Pino, Capoue, Parejo, Trigueros; Moreno, Bacca

Pedigree

Great Villarreal Europa League goals
Great Villarreal Europa League goals

UEFA ranking: 22
UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League finals: 0
Previous best: semi-finals (2004, 2011, 2016)
Liga titles: 0
Copa del Rey: 0
Final league position: 7th

Route to the final

Qualified: 5th in Liga
Group I winners
Round of 32: 4-1 Salzburg (2-0a, 2-1h)
Round of 16: 4-0 Dynamo Kyiv (2-0a, 2-0h)
Quarter-finals: 3-1 Dinamo Zagreb (1-0a, 2-1h)
Semi-finals: 2-1 Arsenal (2-1h, 0-0a)
Overall: P14 W12 D2 L0 F30 A8*
Top scorer: Gerard Moreno, Paco Alcácer (6)

*Includes 3-0 win awarded to Villarreal for forfeited game against Qarabağ on Matchday 6

Road to the final: All Villarreal's goals
Road to the final: All Villarreal's goals

Why this is their year

The temptation is to talk about the flourishing strike partnership of Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcácer. Or Raúl Albiol, the World Cup winner who has, aged 35, been utterly magnificent this season. Pau Torres? An exceptional left-footed passer.

But it's impossible to ignore the impact of Unai Emery. A Europa League winner three times, runner-up with Arsenal a couple of seasons ago – he was signed to take Villarreal to a final and look what he's done.

Tactics

Emery can adapt according to circumstances and opportunities, but this season Villarreal have alternated between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 depending on the situation or opponent. Set plays are important, careful husbandry of possession too. But central to this version of the Yellow Submarine is that Emery will analyse to millimetric depth and instruct his team accordingly.

Key players

Gerard Moreno Spanish international Moreno is in the form of his life, sheer class in his finishing, brimming with confidence.

Raúl Albiol The defender has returned from several years in Serie A ever more competitive, smarter, oozing leadership, brilliant in the air, and looking several years younger than his passport age.

Pau Torres
Pau Torres Icon Sport via Getty Images

Pau Torres A 24-year-old centre-back with a wand of a left foot attracting attention from several of Europe's leading lights.

Potted history

The club hails from Vila-real, a small Valencian town (population: 50,000) most famous for its ceramic tile industry before the Yellow Submarine surfaced for their top-flight debut in 1998. By 2006 a team featuring Juan Román Riquelme, Marcos Senna and Diego Forlán were UEFA Champions League semi-finalists, finishing runners-up in the Liga in 2007/08.

In Gdańsk, Villarreal will be aiming to add the UEFA Europa League silverware to a trophy cabinet currently occupied by two UEFA Intertoto Cups and the 1970 Spanish fourth-tier title.