Arsenal travel to the Estadio de la Cerámica to take on Villarreal in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League semifinals. The game promises to be an exciting contest, as Mikel Arteta takes on his Arsenal predecessor Unai Emery, who has put together an exciting team at the helm of the La Liga side.
Emery is no stranger to the Europa League, having won the competition three times in a row during his stint as Sevilla manager. However, Arsenal will be eager to make their presence felt at the business end of the season, as they aim to move past an underwhelming league campaign by getting their hands on the continental honor.
Both sides are pretty much out of the reckoning to secure a UEFA Champions League spot as far as the league tables are concerned. While Arsenal are currently 10th in the Premier League, Villarreal occupy seventh position in the La Liga standings, so their only hope of playing UCL football next season to secure qualification by winning the Europa League.
Emery nearly won the competition during his stint with Arsenal, as the Gunners were beaten emphatically in the final by London rivals Chelsea. He will look to get one over his former team and become the first manager in history to win the Europa League four times, as an intriguing contest awaits us in Spain.
On that note, here are five players who could make a big impact in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-final tie.
#5 Gerard Moreno | Villarreal
Gerard Moreno is enjoying his most prolific season as a senior pro and has been Villarreal's standout player this season. The 29-year-old has scored 26 goals in all competitions -- with six of those coming in the Europa League -- and has been one of the most in-form strikers in the world since the turn of the year.
Arsenal tend to struggle defensively at times, so the Spanish international could look to exploit their unsettled backline and get his name on the scoresheet. Villarreal need to score at home to have a realistic chance of qualifying, and Moreno's form will be crucial to their hopes of putting the ball into the back of the net.
#4 Rob Holding | Arsenal
Rob Holding seems to be one of Arsenal's most trusted defenders, with the Englishman expected to play alongside Pablo Mari at the heart of the backline. While new signing Gabriel Magalhaes started the season strongly, he has fizzled out in recent months, due to which Holding has been able to nail down a place in the starting XI.
The 25-year-old has featured just thrice in the Europa League this season, but he started for Arsenal in a 4-0 victory against Slavia Prague earlier this month and could well keep his spot in the team.
Holding has started the last four games in all competitions for the Gunners and even captained Arsenal in the 1-0 loss against Everton. He will have to be at his brilliant best to keep Gerard Moreno at bay, with the Spanish striker seemingly scoring goals at will this season.