Preview: Villarreal vs. Manchester United – prediction, team news, lineups
Two managers with differing resumes of success in continental competition prepare their sides for battle in Gdansk as Villarreal take on Manchester United in Wednesday’s Europa League final.
The Yellow Submarine sent Arsenal packing 2-1 on aggregate in the final four to advance to the showpiece event, while Man United put eight past Roma over two legs as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer searches for his first piece of silverware since assuming office.
Villarreal’s La Liga campaign ended in disappointment with a 2-1 defeat to eventual runners-up Real Madrid on Saturday, whereas United secured victory in the Premier League by the same scoreline over Wolverhampton Wanderers
The stage was set for perennial Europa League winner Unai Emery to get revenge on Arsenal after being given the boot by the North London outfit, and the Europa League master outclassed European novice Mikel Arteta to dump his former side out of the tournament.
Villarreal arguably should have been out of sight in the first leg of their semi-final as first-half goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol put them in the driving seat against a toothless Arsenal, but Nicolas Pepe‘s spot kick gave Arsenal hope before Emery once again stepped foot onto the Emirates sidelines.
However, the Yellow Submarine avenged their two previous Champions League exits to Arsenal by holding them to a goalless stalemate in North London – during which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post twice – and Villarreal are now just 90 minutes away from ending their agonising wait for a maiden major honour.
Not even an early injury to scintillating attacker Samuel Chukwueze could dampen the spirits of Villarreal on the night, and as he did time and time again with Sevilla, Emery will endeavour to stamp his authority on Europe’s secondary competition as he seeks a fourth Europa League title since 2014.
It is not just Emery’s personal record on the line this week, as Villarreal’s 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid at the weekend – where Yeremy‘s opener was cancelled out by Karim Benzema and Luka Modric – means that a spot in the UEFA Conference League looms unless they can come up trumps in Gdansk and return to the biggest stage of them all in the Champions League.
With an astonishing record of 12 wins and two draws in their 14 Europa League matches so far, Villarreal may be the underdogs going into Wednesday’s final, but Emery just seems to have that secret formula for success on the continental stage and Man United would commit an act of folly if they failed to do their research on the opposing coach.
It was Jose Mourinho‘s Man United side that broke Emery’s hot streak of three successive Europa League wins in the 2016-17 season, where they overcame Ajax in the final, and the Red Devils will now seek to sink the Yellow Submarine and add some silverware to the trophy cabinet for the first time since that triumph four years ago.
Having managed to delay Manchester City’s title coronation for weeks on end, United’s inevitable second-placed finish in the Premier League was confirmed earlier this month as Solskjaer’s side lost their golden touch, although three games in five days in the wake of Old Trafford protests hardly helped their cause.
With more than one eye on the Gdansk final, Solskjaer placed faith in his academy talents against Wolves on the final day of the Premier League season, and it paid off as Anthony Elanga‘s bullet header preceded a coolly dispatched penalty from Juan Mata as they ended the season with a flourish.
The Red Devils had only taken one point from nine on offer before spoiling Nuno Espirito Santo‘s leaving party at Molineux, and their most recent Europa League fixture also ended in defeat to Roma, but the damage had already been done during a domineering first leg at Old Trafford.
Three injuries in the space of 37 minutes for Roma – who managed to take a 2-1 lead into half time at Old Trafford – significantly hampered their chances of producing the goods at the Theatre of Dreams, and Man United hit them for six before an inconsequential 3-2 defeat in the second leg.
The Red Devils have undoubtedly been the favourites to go all the way in the Europa League since their ill-fated Champions League run came to an end, and they could now follow in the footsteps of long-time rivals Chelsea, who in 2013 became the first and only English side to win the Europa League after dropping out of Europe’s elite competition.
Solskjaer had steered his side to five wins from seven knockout matches before their recent defeat at Roma – an impressive feat considering that Real Sociedad and AC Milan are no pushovers – and a quarter-final success over Granada means that United certainly know how to get the better of Spanish sides on the continental stage.
Solskjaer still has his doubters, whose voices will certainly not be silenced if their trophy drought continues this week, but lifting the European trophy aloft should signal to the discontent fans – who continue to make their feelings towards the much-maligned Glazers known – that he is the right man to restore United to their former glories.
The 2013 Norwegian Cup represents Solskjaer’s only honour during his relatively brief managerial career so far, and adding to that modest haul will be no easy feat against Europa League aficionado Emery, who himself will endeavour to steer Villarreal into a new era with their first-ever major trophy 98 years after their inception.
2021/2022 Premier League Fixtures Released
Breaking: 2021/2022 Premier League Fixtures Released
The fixtures for the 2021/2022 Premier League season were released on Wednesday morning.
Champions Manchester City begin the defence of their title with a mouthwatering trip to Tottenham Hotspur. It remains to be seen which of the two teams Harry Kane will be playing for, as the England captain’s future hangs in the air.
Arsenal travel to newcomers Brentford, while Champions League winners Chelsea begin with a home game against Crystal Palace.
Manchester United clash with Leeds United in what promises to be a cracking game at Old Trafford, and Liverpool are away to Norwich City.
Here is the opening weekend of Premier League fixtures:
Brentford v Arsenal
Burnley v Brighton
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Everton v Southampton
Leicester City v Wolverhampton
Manchester United v Leeds United
Newcastle United v West Ham United
Norwich City v Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City
Watford v Aston Villa
Copa America: Brazil vs Venezuela 3-0 – Highlights Download
Brazil vs Venezuela 3-0 – Highlights Download 13 June 2021 Copa America
A year after the tournament was originally due to take place, the hosts Brazil get the tournament underway as they look to defend their trophy. They won their ninth title in 2019, and are among the favourites to retain it this time around.
Brazil are unbeaten in their last eight matches against Venezuela in all competitions (W5 D3), but two of those draws have been in the Copa America, with both finishing 0-0.
They’ve won each of their last seven games in all competitions, keeping a clean sheet in six of those. Venezuela reached the quarter-finals two years ago before being knocked out by Argentina, but they’ve struggled recently, winning just one of their last six matches (D1 L4).
Copa America: Argentina vs Chile 1-1 – Highlights Download
Argentina vs Chile 1-1 – Highlights Download 13 June 2021 Copa America
Lionel Scaloni leads Argentina into a major tournament for the first time since replacing Jorge Sampaoli after the 2018 World Cup. As ever, the former assistant can call upon the irrepressible Lionel Messi, who will hope this is the year he finally lands his first senior international honour.
It is the fourth consecutive Copa America in which these two nations lock horns. Chile famously prevailed on penalties in the final of the 2015 and 2016 editions, but Argentina won when they faced off in the third-place play-off two years ago.
Messi receives support from Lautaro Martinez and Nicolas Gonzalez, while Nicolas Otamendi anchors the defence and Emiliano Martinez wins just his third cap in goal.
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