Head to head: Arsenal vs Villarreal

Last updated at 10:09 19 April 2006

The 'Yellow Submarine' head to north London to participate in the final Champions League match to be staged at Highbury as they take on Arsenal in the first leg of their intriguing semi-final.

Here, we take a look at the two sides.


Arsene Wenger took some criticism at the beginning of the season; his once flawless outfit were falling victim to sloppy defeats and were nowhere near replicating the style they have showed over the past few seasons.

Wenger typically stood by his team and his decisions, and is now beginning to reap the benefits with Arsenal lasting longer than any other British team in Europe with their best chance yet of reaching the Champions League final.

Manuel Pellegrini was a coach in his native Chile, Ecuador and then Argentina with River Plate, before joining Villarreal in 2004 to succeed Benito Floro.

Pellegrini adjusted the team's system to suit his tactics and guided them to an unexpected Champions League place last season before masterminding the route to the semi-finals.


Gunners captain Thierry Henry returned from injury spectacularly with a stunning goal against Sparta Prague in the group stages and has been typically incisive since.

Cesc Fabregas really started winning plaudits with his mature midfield performances against Real Madrid and Juventus, while the likes of Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, Philippe Senderos and Mathieu Flamini have displayed maturity beyond their years.

Everything revolves around Juan Roman Riquelme for Villarreal. The pedestrian playmaker pulls the strings in the middle, dictating the play, creating chances and scoring quite a few too.

Diego Forlan is the focal point up front with Jose Mari unpredictable but dangerous alongside him. Josico and Marcos Senna run the show behind Riquelme. Stand-in goalkeeper Mariano Barbosa is suspect.


Arsenal surprised many people in England by storming through Group B with a consistent, no-nonsense performances to remain unbeaten.

Their uncharacteristic ruthlessness in Europe continued in the last 16 as they beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and held on to draw at Highbury before seeing off the mighty Juventus earlier this month.

Villarreal eased past Everton in the qualifying round to find themselves drawn with another English club, Manchester United, in the group stages.

Despite more tough competition in the shape of Benfica and Lille, the Spanish outfit topped the group, progressing to the last 16 along with Benfica, despite only winning two and scoring three.

They edged past Rangers on away goals before the same to Inter Milan in the quarters thanks to a 1-0 win at home in the second leg.

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