The final four of the Europa league get underway today, April 29th 2021 as the Manchester United play host to Roma in the first leg tie at Old Trafford while Arsenal travel to Spain to take on Villarreal manage by their former manager Unai Emery…Are we going to witness an all English Final or will Unai Emery get the better of his former club…It promises to be an entertaining game of football…
Transferred from UEFA Champions League, 4-0 Real Sociedad (R32), 2-1 AC Milan (R16), 4-0 Granada (QF)
Last season: semi-finals (L vs Sevilla)
UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League best: winners (2017)
Why this is their year
Last season’s semi-final defeat to Sevilla hurt Ole Gunnar Solskjær and his players. United paid a heavy price for their profligacy that night but are determined not to make the same mistakes this time around.
Solskjær normally sets his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation but has been known to deploy a 3-4-1-2 system, and has even experimented with a 4-4-2 diamond.
Key player: Bruno Fernandes
With nearly 40 goals or assists in all competitions this season, Bruno Fernandes remains the beating heart of this Red Devils team.
Group A winners, 5-1 Braga (R32), 5-1 Shakhtar (R16), 3-2 Ajax (QF)
Last season: round of 16 (L vs Sevilla)
UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League best: runners-up (1991)
Why this is their year
Roma had been cruising before being made to battle against Ajax before making it through anyway. They have the perfect mix of qualities, and in Europe they have shown they can go all the way.
Roma play a 3-4-2-1, utilising a midfielder – Bryan Cristante – in the centre of the back three to dictate play from deep, two very attacking wing-backs and two creative playmakers in the hole behind a lone striker.
Key player: Jordan Veretout
Roma’s system might fall apart without Veretout, the keystone in the middle. A complete box-to-box midfielder, the Frenchman mops up at the back and gets in on the action further forward, too – he is into double figures this season.
Group I winners, 4-1 Salzburg (R32), 4-0
Dynamo Kyiv (R16), 3-1 Dinamo Zagreb (QF)
Last season: N/A
UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League best: semi-finals (2004, 2011, 2016)
Why this is their year
Unai Emery has won this competition three times and is working for a club who are now in their fourth semi-final. Villarreal want this trophy and qualification for the UEFA Champions League equally badly.
Emery can adapt to circumstances and opportunities, but this season, the Yellow Submarine have largely lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, which he can switch to a 4-5-1 when he has to.
Key player: Gerard Moreno
Spanish international Moreno is a real nuisance for defenders and his eye for goal makes him a player everyone should be wary of.
Group B winners, 4-3 Benfica (R32), 3-2 Olympiacos (R16), 5-1 Slavia Praha (QF)
Last season: round of 32 (L vs Olympiacos)
UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League best: runners-up (2000, 2019)
Why this is their year
The Gunners will want to make up for a below-par Premier League campaign by enjoying success in Europe. They certainly still have their deficiencies, but a free-flowing, attacking style means they always look to have goals in them.
Arsenal’s preferred approach in this competition has been to get the ball into wide areas and get crosses into the penalty area; overlapping full-backs help to provide the width. They build well from the back with patience.
Key player: Alexandre Lacazette
Lacazette has found form in recent weeks, providing goals – including two in the quarter-final second leg at Slavia – as well as an invaluable all-round contribution; he drops deep to collect the ball and helps to link play.
Manchester United will be in action at Old Trafford, where they welcome Serie A giants AS Roma in the other semi-final.
Manchester United are on a six-game unbeaten run across all competitions currently. However, their previous game ended in a dour goalless draw against Leeds United in the Premier League. AS Roma, meanwhile, are on a four-game winless streak currently (D2 L2), with their latest game ending in a 3-2 defeat to Cagliari.
Anthony Martial and Phil Jones are both out until next season for the Red Devils, with Solskjaer otherwise having a clean bill of health for this clash.
Leonardo Spinazzola and Chris Smalling both returned from injury to play in Roma’s loss against Cagliari at the weekend whilst Stephan El Shaarawy and Marash Kumbulla were both unused substitutes on their respective comebacks and could feature here.
This will be the seventh meeting between Manchester United and Roma in European competition, while the Red Devils have only lost one of the previous six (W4 D1) - all of which have been in the UEFA Champions League.
Roma have lost all three of their previous away games against Manchester United, conceding nine goals and scoring just once in return. This will be their first such trip since April 2008, when they lost 0-1 in a UEFA Champions League quarter-final.
Since making his debut in the competition in February 2018, Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes has been directly involved in more goals in the UEFA Europa League than any other player (26 - 17 goals and nine assists).
Roma striker Edin Dzeko has scored five goals in four previous games against Manchester United at Old Trafford, including a brace in each of his last two there while playing for Manchester City (in October 2011 and March 2014).
Arsenal will travel to Estadio de la Ceramica on Thursday, for the first leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-final.
The Gunners are currently going through a tough period, especially following their European Super League announcement, which drew flak from their own fans, many of whom also revolved outside the Emirates. They have also miserably underperformed in the Premier League this season, which was evident in the defeat to Everton last week.
Villarreal on the other hand are going through a tough time of their own, having slipped to three defeats in their last five matches – a run of result that has allowed Real Sociedad and Real Betis to take the lead in the race of the top six in La Liga.
Both the sides, though, performed quite well in the previous round, with Villarreal holding their own against Dinamo Zagreb while Arsenal powered their way through Slavia Praha.
Villarreal and Arsenal will play for the fifth time in European competition, with the previous four games taking place in the UEFA Champions League (semi-finals in 2005-06 and quarter-finals in 2008-09) - Villarreal are yet to beat the Gunners (D2 L2).
Villarreal boss Unai Emery will contest a UEFA Europa League semi-final for the sixth time, which will be double that of any other coach in the competition (since the 2009 re-brand). Emery has progressed from each of his previous four such ties, including with Arsenal in 2018-19.
Arsenal’s Nicolas Pépé has been directly involved in nine goals in the UEFA Europa League this season (five goals & four assists), the joint-most of any player - the Frenchman scored in both legs in the last round.