Unai Emery insists facing a former club is nothing new to him as he aims to steer Villarreal to a first European final at the expense of previous employers Arsenal.
Villarreal made it through to the last four of the Europa League thanks to a 3-1 aggregate triumph over Dinamo Zagreb, who were surprise conquerors of Tottenham in the previous round.
After converting a penalty in the first leg to put the LaLiga side in control of the quarter-final tie, Gerard Moreno was on target again in a 2-1 win on Thursday to make it six goals in his past five outings in the competition.
Next up will be Arsenal, a club where Emery spent 18 months in charge. He reached the Europa League final with the Gunners in May 2019 but was sacked before the end of the calendar year.
“First of all, I’m used to meeting former teams so playing Arsenal, where I coached, is nothing new as an experience. We’ll face up to it with humility, pride and responsibility,” Emery said.
“This is a chance to establish Villarreal on the top rung of European football.
“The key thing is for us to enjoy what we’ve done so far and enjoy the opportunity to break our record of reaching semi-finals but not then going on to the European finals.”
Emery’s current side did concede on home soil when Mislav Orsic pulled a goal back in the second half for Dinamo, though Villarreal comfortably held on to seal their progression.
The final margin of victory could easily have been greater, too; the impressive Samuel Chukwueze – who set up the opener for Paco Alcacer – twice hit the post.
“We tried not to lose the ball cheaply to allow Dinamo to counter,” Emery said of the performance.
“We tried to be patient and control the game, to prevent Dinamo creating goal chances, and when it was 2-1, you could see what they were made of and how they knocked Tottenham out.
“Across the two matches, justice was done and we deserved to be in the semi-finals.”
The first leg against Arsenal will take place in Spain on April 29, with Emery’s Villarreal then visiting Emirates Stadium the following week in the return fixture.