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Arsenal vs Villarreal: UEFA Europa League background, form guide, previous meetings

Arsenal, seeking a second final appearance in three seasons, host Villarreal needing to overturn a 2-1 deficit as they also welcome back Unai Emery.

Villarreal lead 2-1 heading into the second leg
Villarreal lead 2-1 heading into the second leg UEFA via Getty Images

The second leg of this UEFA Europa League semi-final is fascinatingly poised as Arsenal, seeking a second final appearance in three seasons, host Villarreal needing to overturn a 2-1 deficit, the Spanish side having ended the Gunners' competition record run of 12 away games without defeat with their eighth successive European victory in the first leg in Spain. Adding to the intrigue is the return to north London of ex-Gunners head coach Unai Emery.

• Arsenal claimed maximum points in the autumn from UEFA Europa League Group B, doing the double over Rapid Wien, Dundalk and fellow qualifiers Molde before eliminating Benfica (1-1 a, 3-2 h), Olympiacos (3-1 a, 0-1 h) and, in the quarter-finals, Slavia Praha (1-1 h, 4-0 a). With 33 goals scored, they are the top-scoring team in this season's UEFA Europa League.

• Villarreal cruised to first place in UEFA Europa League Group I ahead of Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Sivasspor and Qarabağ to reach the round of 32 for the eighth time before comfortably disposing of UEFA Champions League group stage participants Salzburg (2-0 a, 2-1 h) and Dynamo Kyiv (2-0 a, 2-0 h) and then also winning both quarter-final matches against Dinamo Zagreb (1-0 a, 2-1 h).

Previous meetings
• Villarreal looked to have taken a decisive advantage in the tie when first-half goals from Manu Trigueros and Raúl Albiol were supplemented by the 57th-minute sending-off of Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Dani Ceballos. However, the Gunners fought back to reduce the deficit through a Nicolas Pépé penalty before Villarreal also went down to ten men following the dismissal of Étienne Capoue ten minutes from time. It was Villarreal's first win over Arsenal in five attempts.

• The clubs have been paired twice previously, on each occasion in the UEFA Champions League knockout phase, with Arsenal prevailing in both ties.

• The first meeting was in the 2005/06 semi-final, Arsène Wenger's Arsenal defeating Manuel Pellegrini's Villarreal 1-0 in the first leg at Highbury – in the club's final European encounter at the stadium – thanks to a Kolo Touré strike, before drawing the return 0-0 in Spain. Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann saved a late penalty from Juan Román Riquelme to take the Gunners into their first – and as yet only – European Cup final, which they would lose 2-1 to Barcelona.

• Three years later the clubs met again, with the same managers, in the quarter-finals, and once more the English side were victorious, Wenger's side drawing the first leg 1-1 before cruising to a 3-0 home win. The Gunners have therefore won both previous home games against Villarreal without conceding.

• Those two campaigns remain Villarreal's sole ventures into the UEFA Champions League knockout phase. They were also defeated by English opposition on their last appearance in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, going out to Liverpool in 2015/16 (1-0 h, 0-3 a), which made their all-time record against Premier League opposition in two-legged UEFA ties W1 L3. The only victory came in the first of those, against Everton in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round (2-1 a, 2-1 h).

• Arsenal, in contrast, won their most recent UEFA Europa League semi-final against Spanish opponents, Emery overseeing a comfortable aggregate win over his former club Valencia in 2018/19 (3-1 h, 4-2 a). Twelve months earlier Wenger's Gunners had been eliminated at the same stage of the competition by another Liga side, Atlético de Madrid, who drew 1-1 in London before winning 1-0 in the Spanish capital.

• Arsenal have won only 12 of their 36 UEFA fixtures against Spanish opposition, their 16 defeats including three in finals – in the European Cup Winners’ Cup against Valencia (1979/80) and Real Zaragoza (1994/95) as well as that loss to Barcelona in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League decider. Their overall record in two-legged ties against Spanish teams, however, is W6 L5.

• The Gunners have won nine of their 16 home games in UEFA competition against Spanish visitors (D4 L3), including the most recent, against Valencia in the first leg of that 2018/19 semi-final.

• Villarreal's overall record against English clubs is W5 D6 L5. In England it is W1 D2 L4, that 2-1 victory at Everton on their first visit remaining their only success. Indeed they have failed to score in all but one of those six subsequent matches in the country.

Form guide
• Eighth in the 2019/20 Premier League, Arsenal ensured a 25th consecutive season in Europe by winning the FA Cup under new manager Mikel Arteta – the club's record 14th triumph in the competition – with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the final. Their third successive UEFA Europa League campaign was ended in the round of 32 by Olympiacos.

• UEFA Champions League ever-presents for 19 seasons in a row from 1998/99 to 2016/17, Arsenal reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals at the first attempt in 2017/18, losing to eventual winners Atlético, before going one step further and making it to the 2018/19 final, where they were defeated 4-1 by Chelsea in Baku. They have been group winners on all four UEFA Europa League appearances – an unprecedented feat – and this season became the 11th team in the competition to top their section with maximum points thanks to wins against Rapid (2-1 a, 4-1 h), Dundalk (3-0 h, 4-2 a) and Molde (4-1 h, 3-0 a).

• Arsenal's record in UEFA Europa League semi-finals is W1 L1 as a result of those two contrasting ties against Spanish opposition in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

• The Gunners' overall UEFA Europa League home record, including the win against Benfica in neutral Piraeus in the round of 32, is W16 D4 L4. They have, however, failed to win any of their last three knockout phase matches at the Arsenal Stadium, losing twice to Olympiacos before the quarter-final first-leg draw against Slavia.

• Arsenal have won only four of the 14 UEFA competition ties in which they were defeated away in the first leg, though they were triumphant in the two most recent – both in the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League, against BATE Borisov in the round of 32 (0-1 a, 3-0 h) and Rennes in the round of 16 (1-3 a, 3-0 h). They have also won the last two of the three ties in which they lost the first away leg 2-1, most recently overcoming Porto with a 5-0 second-leg win in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League round of 16.

• Villarreal finished fifth in the 2019/20 Spanish Liga to return to Europe after a season's absence and participate in the UEFA Europa League group stage for a record-equalling eighth time.

• The Spanish club have never finished outside the top two in their eight group campaigns, going through as section winners four times, including this season as Emery's side won Group I at a canter, scoring 12 goals in winning their first three matches before sealing first place with a 1-0 win at Sivasspor on Matchday 5.

• Villarreal have lost both of their previous two UEFA Europa League semi-final ties, going down to eventual winners Porto in 2010/11 (1-5 a, 3-2 h) before that 2015/16 defeat against Liverpool. The club have never reached a major European final.

• Villarreal are unbeaten in their last 11 UEFA Europa League matches outside Spain (W7 D4), this season's away fixtures bringing wins in Turkey against Qarabağ (3-1) and Sivasspor, a 1-1 draw against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, those 2-0 successes in Salzburg and Kyiv and, last time out, that 1-0 win in Zagreb. They have kept clean sheets in all of their last four away games in the competition.

• Villarreal's last defeats in this competition were in the 2018/19 quarter-final against local rivals Valencia (1-3 h, 0-2 a); they are now undefeated by non-Spanish opposition in 22 European matches (W16 D6) including all 12 this season.

• The last UEFA tie in which Villarreal won the first leg at home was that 2015/16 UEFA Europa League semi-final against Liverpool. That is the only one of the 15 ties the Spanish club have lost after travelling to the away fixture with a first-leg lead. On the only two previous occasions that they won the first home leg 2-1, UEFA Europa League encounters with Salzburg in the 2014/15 round of 32 and Sparta Praha in the 2015/16 quarter-final, they also won the return fixtures, 3-1 in Austria and 4-2 in the Czech Republic.

Links and trivia
• Trigueros's next appearance in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, will be his 50th, the previous 49 having all been for Villarreal. Only three other players – Andreas Ulmer (Salzburg), Markel Susaeta (Athletic Club) and Senad Lulić (Lazio) – have reached the half-century in the competition with a single club.

• Emery replaced long-serving Arsenal boss Wenger in May 2018 and remained in charge for 18 months before being dismissed and ultimately replaced by his fellow Basque native Arteta.

• Emery has overseen 91 matches in the UEFA Europa League proper – 31 more than any other coach. He led Sevilla to all three of their trophy successes from 2013/14 to 2015/16 before losing that 2018/19 final with Arsenal.

• San Sebastián-born Arteta started out with Barcelona's youth team but the only Spanish Liga side he played for was hometown club Real Sociedad, in 2004/05.

• Villarreal midfielder Francis Coquelin was on Arsenal's books from 2008 to 2018, making 160 appearances for the club in all competitions and winning two FA Cups.

• There are three Spaniards in Arsenal's squad – Héctor Bellerín, Pablo Marí and Dani Ceballos. The latter is on an extended loan to the club from Spanish champions Real Madrid, as is Norwegian international Martin Ødegaard.

• Ceballos and Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza were members of Spain's 2019 UEFA Under-21 European Championship-winning squad.

• Thomas Partey joined Arsenal in October 2020 from Atlético, for whom he made 188 appearances in all competitions, scoring 16 goals, and was a UEFA Europa League winner in 2017/18. He also played in Spain for Mallorca and Almería.

• Juan Foyth is currently on loan to Villarreal from Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, while Capoue – suspended for this match – is another former Spur who joined the Spanish club in January after five and a half seasons with Watford.

• Alberto Moreno was a Premier League player with Liverpool (2014–19), while his Villarreal team-mate Ramiro Funes Mori played with Merseyside rivals Everton (2015–18). Dani Parejo spent 2008/09 on loan at Queens Park Rangers in the English Championship.

• Villarreal have played more matches in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, than any other club. This is their 87th encounter – 13 more than second-placed Salzburg.

• The 27 goals scored by Villarreal this season have lifted their all-time total in the competition to a record 151, 22 more than Liga rivals Sevilla, with 100 conceded. They also hold the record for most UEFA Europa League wins (49), seven more than Sevilla.

• Arsenal are the highest-scoring English club in the UEFA Europa League with 109 goals – six more than Tottenham.

• Both clubs won with much-changed starting XIs in domestic competition on Sunday afternoon, Arsenal 2-0 at Newcastle United in the Premier League and Villarreal 1-0 at home to Getafe in the Spanish Liga. That was Arsenal's first victory in four matches in all competitions; they have won none of their last five home games (D2 L3).

Penalty shoot-outs
• Villarreal's record in two UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L0:
4-3 v Torino, 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round
3-1 v Atlético de Madrid, 2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup final

• Arsenal's record in four UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L2:
4-5 v Valencia, 1979/80 European Cup Winners' Cup final
3-2 v Sampdoria, 1994/95 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup semi-final
1-4 v Galatasaray, 1999/2000 UEFA Cup final
7-6 v Roma, 2008/09 UEFA Champions League round of 16