Villarreal boss Unai Emery names favourites to reach Europa League final ahead of Arsenal clash

Head Coach Unai Emery of Villarreal CF answers questions during the press conference after the UEFA Europa League Semi-final First Leg match between Villareal CF and Arsenal at Estadio de la Ceramica on April 29, 2021 in Villarreal, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Europe remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors.
Emery thinks Arsenal are the favourites to progress (Picture: Getty Images)

Unai Emery insists his former club Arsenal are still the favourites to reach the Europa League final, despite his Villarreal side holding a 2-1 aggregate lead heading into the second leg.

Emery’s men looked to be in total control of the tie after taking a 2-0 lead through goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol in the first half in Spain, with Dani Ceballos sent off just before the hour mark to add to the Gunners’ woes.

Opportunities were missed to put the game beyond doubt and Arsenal were handed a major lifeline as Bukayo Saka won a soft penalty, which was tucked away by Nicolas Pepe.

The two sides will meet again at the Emirates on Thursday, with Arsenal hoping to turn the tie on its head.

And Emery, who previously guided Arsenal to the final of this competition, believes his former team remain the favourites to progress despite starting a goal down.

‘When you face a team like this who are still the favourites, but after 90 minutes we’ve been able to bring some value to the table,’ Emery said in his pre-match press conference.

Arsenal Head Coach Mikel Arteta during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on May 02, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors.
Arteta will hope to guide Arsenal to the final (Picture: Getty)

‘We are facing this second leg with maximum respect for Arsenal and the Europa League and lots of excitement at individual and collective level.

He added: ‘I consider the first leg’s result doesn’t change how I see the initial competition.

Arsenal started as a favourite and they’re still favourites at this stage.

‘We will try to compete against these types of teams. The first leg result is too narrow to make anything change.’

That doesn’t mean Emery isn’t confident in his Villarreal outfit and he feels his side are in a good place ahead of the second leg.

‘We are at a very beautiful moment it’s a very beautiful moment for us we have been working throughout the year trying to build on confidence results and objectives and in the Europa League we’ve had quite a solid path so far,’ he added.

‘We are facing the game tomorrow along the same lines. We are going to keep building on what we did last 90 minutes.

‘We are ahead 2-1 but that doesn’t change anything. We are going to try to be ready for whatever comes.’

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