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Villarreal vs Arsenal: 5 key battles | UEFA Europa League 2020-21

Arsenal face Villarreal on Thursday.
Arsenal face Villarreal on Thursday.
Sachin Bhat
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Arsenal will look to reach their second Europa League final in three years when they take on Villarreal in the first leg of their last-four clash in the 2020-21 Europa League at the El Madrigal on Thursday.

Unai Emery will be going up against his old team for the first time since getting the boot in November 2019.

His success in the competition and familiarity with Arsenal could make Villarreal the favourites in this game. But Arsenal, despite all their struggles this season, cannot be underestimated.

Nevertheless, it's going to be an enticing tactical battle featuring some enticing player duels that could have an impact on the game's outcome.

On that note, let's have a look at the top five player battles in this game to watch out for.


#1 Pau Torres (Villareal) vs Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)

Villarreal may not have it easy against Arsenal's top-scorer this season.
Villarreal may not have it easy against Arsenal's top-scorer this season.

Pau Torres is quickly becoming the next big thing in Spanish football. A centre-back by trade, he has produced performances that have drawn him comparisons with Sergio Ramos. He is widely expected to replace the Real Madrid legend.

However, on Thursday, he could face a tough task against Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal's top-scorer this season, with 17 goals. Inconsistency has been the Frenchman's Achilles heel, but he remains a tricky customer on his day.

Lacazette tore Slavia Praha to shreds in Arsenal's last Europa League game, scoring a brace, so the Gunners will hope he can replicate the same form at the El Madrigal.


#2 David Luiz (Arsenal) vs Gerard Moreno (Villareal)

Gerard Moreno is arguably the most in-form La Liga striker right now.
Gerard Moreno is arguably the most in-form La Liga striker right now.

Despite his occasional defensive gaffes being well-documented, David Luiz has improved considerably under Mikel Arteta. He has struggled with injuries this season, but the Arsenal manager has confirmed that Luiz will be in contention to start against Villareal.

If he does so, Luiz could face a baptism by fire, as he will come up against the in-form striker Gerard Moreno, who has scored 26 goals in all competitions for Villarreal this season.

Moreno won't be the only threat Arsenal will face, but keeping the striker quiet will go a long way towards getting a favourable result for the visitors.

#3 Dani Parejo (Villareal) vs Thomas Partey (Arsenal)

Dani Parejo's playmaking skills could test Arsenal.
Dani Parejo's playmaking skills could test Arsenal.

With both Arsenal and Villareal boasting a plethora of attacking talents in their ranks, the game could be decided by which attack fares better. On current form, Dani Parejo has been in imperious form.

Since joining Villarreal last summer, he has quickly become their chief orchestrator, cutting opposition defences with incisive through-balls and controlling the tempo of games with elegant passes.

Thomas Partey will have the Herculean task of keeping Parejo quiet on the day. The Arsenal midfielder has been a mixed bag since arriving from the Spanish capital in October last year. He must ensure Parejo doesn't have too much time and space to work into, which would augur well for Arsenal's hopes of winning the game.


#4 Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) vs Samuel Chukwueze (Villareal)

Samuel Chukwueze could be a huge threat down Arsenal's flanks.
Samuel Chukwueze could be a huge threat down Arsenal's flanks.

Granit Xhaka has become more of a utility man for Arsenal and might start at left-back against Villareal, where he's likely come up against the marauding winger Samuel Chukwueze.

Tall, quick and with terrier-like pressing prowess, the Nigerian has looked unstoppable of late. He scored a sensational goal against Barcelona last week. And if that's a precursor of what's to come on Thursday, Xhaka could have a tough outing.


#5 Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) vs Pervis Estupinan (Villareal)

Nicolas Pepe has been in superb form in the Europa League for Arsenal this season.
Nicolas Pepe has been in superb form in the Europa League for Arsenal this season.

While the jury is still out on Nicolas Pepe, he has been a key player for Arsenal in Europe this season, scoring five goals and chipping in with four assists.

His penchant of cutting onto his left foot is something to behold, and that's something Pervis Estupinan should be wary of. Estupinan will also have to track Nicolas Pepe's runs closely, as the Ivorian likes to cut inside and tee off other colleagues in advanced positions on the field.

Edited by Bhargav
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