Roma defender Chris Smalling cannot imagine a bigger game than his return to Manchester United for Thursday's Europa League semi-final first leg, although he said playing behind closed doors is disappointing.

Smalling, who only returned from a knee injury against Cagliari last week, made more than 300 appearances for United across almost a decade before initially joining Roma on loan in 2019 – a deal that became permanent the following year.

A two-time Premier League winner with United, Smalling will line up against his former team-mates in the opening leg of the final-four showdown at Old Trafford.

"It's a special game, it's a semi-final, added on top it's playing against United," former England international Smalling told reporters.

"Obviously being in Rome for nearly the last two years I know the importance of bringing home a trophy because it's been far too long.

"There are so many ingredients that I don't think there'll be a bigger game to be a part of. I'm just thankful that I'm now fit and I'm able to contribute because the whole squad needs every player."

Smalling's reunion at Old Trafford will be played without fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"I'd admit that's one disappointment not to have a full house and likewise to even have my friends and family watching two clubs that have been a big part of my career," Smalling said.

"That's one unfortunate thing but it doesn't take away the emotion side because it's very rare when you go onto a pitch and you know every player on the pitch.

"In such a big game as well, I think it's got all the ingredients to put on one of your best performances."

Smalling's United exit came during the early stages of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure as he moved to the Italian capital on loan two years ago.

The 31-year-old Smalling said he had nothing against the Norwegian manager about his departure.

"When [Solskjaer] first came in I was injured but when I got fit he played me and we had a good relationship," Smalling added.

"We had very honest conversations in the summer but now we'll meet on the pitch and I'm really looking forward to it."

Smalling missed six weeks with the knee injury that he only returned from against Cagliari on Sunday.

"Personally I'm feeling good," he said. "It's no secret that I have missed a lot of games this season which is very unusual for me.

"But coming into this game I'm feeling fit. I'm feeling ready to contribute."

Roma will be looking for their first European victory away to English opponents since February 2001 (1-0 against Liverpool in the UEFA Cup), having failed to win any of their last 12 such games against seven different English sides (D4 L8).

Meanwhile, Roma have lost all three of their previous away games against United, conceding nine goals and scoring just once in return. This will be their first such trip since April 2008, when they lost 1-0 in a Champions League quarter-final.

Unai Emery has called on Arsenal to remain faithful in their "perfect marriage" with Mikel Arteta, even though he is aiming to plot his former club's downfall in the Europa League.

Emery has steered Villarreal through to the semi-finals of the competition this season, setting up a clash against the club who sacked him in November 2019.

The Spaniard left Emirates Stadium after 18 months at the helm, the club having won 49 per cent of his 51 Premier League games in charge.

He did lead the Gunners to the Europa League final in his solitary full season in the job – they lost 4-1 to London rivals Chelsea in Baku – and admits a "little corner of his heart" still belongs to Arsenal, as well as the other teams he has coached in his career.

"It is a closed stage and I only have gratitude for having worked there," Emery said of his time at Arsenal.

"It is one more process in my career and I keep the good things that have helped me. Now I am very happy at Villarreal trying to contribute my knowledge, as I did at the time with Arsenal.

"For all the teams I have been at, I have my little corner in my heart for them. But now it is yellow and 100 per cent for this club."

Arteta was appointed as Emery's replacement and while they have done well in Europe in his first full campaign, domestic results have continued to be disappointing.

Arsenal have won just two of their previous eight outings in all competitions ahead of Thursday's game at Estadio de la Ceramica and sit 10th in the English top-flight table, meaning the two-legged tie with Villarreal is crucial to their hopes of securing a return to the Champions League next season.

Still, Arteta's predecessor has made clear the importance of having enough time to turn around the fortunes of a "great club" - something he was not afforded in the role.

"The Premier League is difficult. Arsenal's situation is natural and there were certain circumstances after Wenger's time. We fought for the Champions League and we reached the final of the Europa League," Emery told the media.

"Arteta's work takes time, you have to be patient, trust and sure that the club will find its usual place. That entails time, but I think they will make it."

He added: "You cannot say more than it is a great club, in terms of history and in the present. Arteta has a perfect marriage with the club since he was a beloved player there.

"You see a team with a clear identity, with a very 'Arsenal' idea. There have important players, some with great experience and others who are young players showing quality when given the opportunity.

"We are working to see how to counter them with different plans for the match."

A three-time winner of the competition while in charge of Sevilla, Emery will be aiming to guide Villarreal to a first major European final in the club's history.

However, they have failed to beat Arsenal in four previous meetings in Europe, including in both games of their Champions League semi-final in 2006.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says it would be "a dream come true" to lift silverware as Manchester United manager, with his side preparing for a Europa League semi-final against Roma.

While Solskjaer has improved United's Premier League standing since taking charge in December 2018, he is yet to win a trophy and has been beaten in all four of the semi-finals he has reached.

That included the semi-final in the Europa League last season against eventual winners Sevilla.

United are at home for the first leg against Roma, a team they have played six times before – all in the Champions League – winning four.

One of those victories was the famous 7-1 win in the second leg of a 2007 Champions League quarter-final tie that Solskjaer played in, the spirit from which he hopes to rekindle at Old Trafford on Thursday.

"It will be a dream come true the day I can lift a trophy for this club as a manager," said Solskjaer. 

"That is what we are building for. It is ifs and buts, but our ambition is to finish this season with a trophy and to celebrate. I know what that can mean for the group."

Asked if he had conducted a detailed analysis on the previous semi-final defeats, Solskjaer added: "We have looked at them and the reasons why.

"But every semi-final is a tough one against tough teams.

"Some defeats you dwell on a little bit more, but it is about putting things right and arriving with an almost fully fit squad.

"Now we are going to go all out, we play Liverpool in between but that will take care of itself.

"I would like to think [we have more belief now]. It was a strange end to last season with the mini tournament [in Germany]; the atmosphere and feeling.

"We have to go that one step further and win. We have had a great night in this tournament before [winning it in 2017]. Our focus is on ending the season with a celebration.

"As soon as we went out of the Champions League our focus was getting to a final. We feel we have been in a proper competition, we have enjoyed it.

"When you come to the business end of the season, first of all being there for the important games, having confidence and belief, but of course to have that luck and quality which is needed.

"We have done remarkably well to get to five semis. Now we want to go all the way."

United have only lost one of their last 12 games against Italian opponents in European competition (W8 D3).

The only defeat in this run came at home to Juventus in the Champions League group stage in 2018-19.

Roma, who are seventh in Serie A, have failed to win any of their last 12 away games in Europe against English clubs, a run that has factored in matches against seven different sides (D4 L8).

On the 2007 tie with Roma, Solskjaer added: "I remember both games, I started the first one. We dug out a very good result after 2-1 defeat [in the first leg].

"That night was magical. Alan Smith was excellent, we showed what United can do. We want a performance like this again!"

United have no new injuries after the 0-0 Premier League draw at Leeds, with Eric Bailly and Marcus Rashford available while Anthony Martial and Phil Jones are still out.

Kieran Tierney is in line to make a surprise comeback in Arsenal's Europa League semi-final first-leg tie at Villarreal, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are also in contention.

Scottish left-back Tierney suffered ligament damage to his left knee in the 3-0 defeat at Liverpool on April 3 and was originally expected to miss between four and six weeks.

Such a timescale would have left Tierney facing the possibility of missing the remainder of the season, but Gunners boss Mikel Arteta provided a much more positive update ahead of Thursday's trip to Villarreal.

"He didn't need the surgery that we were afraid of," said Arteta.

"He's been working like a beast every single day. I don't know if he's going to make it tomorrow, but he certainly wants to be as close as possible."

Captain Aubameyang has not featured since April 8 and had been receiving treatment for malaria, but Arteta confirmed he and Lacazette (hamstring) are in line to feature.

David Luiz has been back in training following a knee issue having been out since March, meaning Arteta has potentially a fully fit squad to choose from.

But the Spaniard insists no risks are being taken in a huge match for Arsenal, for who the Europa League represents their best chance of qualifying for European football next term given they sit 10th in the Premier League.

"We do need them because we know that we have some players that are in contention and they are the ones that can make the difference in a big tie like this," he added.

"But the word risk, I don't like it. I want to put players on the pitch that can perform and feel secure they can perform. If it is a risk or we are going to take a gamble, I don't think it is the right game to do it."

The match against Villarreal sees Arsenal come up against former boss Unai Emery, a coach who won the Europa League three years running with Sevilla and led the Gunners to the 2019 final where they were beaten by Chelsea.

Emery was sacked in December of that year following a downturn in results, though Arteta had nothing but praise for his predecessor.

"I spoke with him before I took the Arsenal job, he was really helpful, very experienced and successful manager," he said.

"I think there is no doubt that he's got the tools and knowledge to manage at the top level."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being investigated by UEFA for "an alleged financial interest in a betting company", European football's governing body has confirmed.

Earlier this month, Swedish publication Aftonbladet claimed Ibrahimovic was potentially in breach of FIFA regulations due to apparent involvement in the Maltese gambling company Bethard.

It was claimed that a business Ibrahimovic owns holds 10 per cent of Bethard's shares, making it their fourth-largest shareholder.

Ibrahimovic's association with Bethard was nothing new, as the former Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain star became their global ambassador in 2018.

But the Aftonbladet report was the first time allegations of a more substantial involvement were brought to light and now UEFA is taking the claims seriously.

A statement issued by UEFA read: "In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations (DR), a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector has today been appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding a potential violation of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations by Mr. Zlatan Ibrahimovic for having an alleged financial interest in a betting company.

"Further information regarding this matter will be made available in due course."

FIFA's ethics code prohibits the involvement in betting enterprises for players, officials, referees and intermediaries.

It says: "They are forbidden from participating in, either directly or indirectly, betting, gambling, lotteries or similar events or transactions related to football matches or competitions and/or any related football activities.

"They shall not have any interests, either directly or indirectly (through or in conjunction with third parties), in entities, companies, organisations, etc. that promote, broker, arrange or conduct betting, gambling, lotteries or similar events or transactions connected with football matches and competitions;

"'Interests' include gaining any possible advantage for the persons bound by the Code themselves and/or related parties."

If found guilty, Ibrahimovic, 39, faces a ban from all football-related activity for up to three years.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being investigated by UEFA for "an alleged financial interest in a betting company", European football's governing body has confirmed.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted his team will not be impacted by protests against the club's owners and the European Super League ahead of a defining week at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer's Red Devils were held to a 0-0 draw by rivals Leeds United in Premier League action at Elland Road on Sunday.

The pre-match build-up had been centred on the Super League controversy, which has fuelled an already negative view on Manchester United's owners – the Glazer family.

The breakaway competition, which sought to establish a closed-shop competition featuring 12 of the continent's elite clubs – including United – collapsed 48 hours after its launch, in the face of widespread opposition.

United fans have continued to protest against the Glazer family, with a plane trailing a banner – "2bn stolen – Glazers out' – flying over Elland Road prior to kick-off on Sunday.

As United look ahead to Thursday's opening leg of their Europa League semi-final against Roma, followed by a showdown against bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday, Solskjaer was asked if the protests would distract the players for the remainder of the season.

"I'm really happy with the boys' focus. They have such a determination to finish the season strong," Solskjaer told reporters as United sit second in the Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Manchester City and 13 points clear of sixth-placed Liverpool.

"Of course, the European disappointment of the last game of last season [against Sevilla in the Europa League], that still sticks in their minds and hearts.

"We're very, very focused to do well against Roma [UEL semi-final] and, of course, we've got Liverpool in between so we're not worried about [the protests] at all."

United are unbeaten in their last 24 Premier League away games (W15 D9), with only Arsenal between April 2003 and September 2004 (27) having a longer such run in English top-flight history.

"It's a really good achievement, no matter if there's fans or no fans," Solskjaer said. "With the 24 game [streak] without defeat, I think the players have prepared well for these games. We travel, the work by the coaches for every game is really, really good and planned down to a tee.

"I've got to say, we hope it continues because we've got a lot of big games coming up. We want to take as many points as possible."

United are on track to finish second this season, with the Red Devils eight points clear of Leicester City – who have a match in hand.

However, United's wait for Premier League glory is set to continue, having not hoisted the trophy aloft since 2012-13.

"We've taken baby steps in the way we play, in the way we train, in the fitness," added Solskjaer. "The coaches, the work that has been done on the training ground has been planned. We have been able to put down layer by layer by layer, as I said, and now we feel confident going into every game, trusting our way of playing.

"That's a big thing for us, knowing that whoever we play against, we have our own way of dealing with the opponent. Of course, there's little tweaks here and there but with an addition or two, we'll keep on strengthening this squad and keep on training hard.

"I've not seen many teams, in the second half, dominate as much as we did against Leeds. They're so fit, strong, they steam roller teams but we almost did that to them in the second half."

United have drawn seven league games nil-nil this season – only in 1980-81 (eight) have they been involved in more goalless draws in a single league campaign. The Red Devils have the most goalless draws of any side in the Premier League this term.

"Compared to last season, we've won a few more tight games," said Solskjaer. "We've won many games towards the end of the game, I think our fitness has been really good. Second half, we looked strong, like athletes. I really liked what I saw out there. We dominated, played in their half, kept them away from our goal, or even from our half really.

"So really happy with that but today we just didn't have the moments, we didn't take them when we had them. A draw is disappointing because we wanted to put pressure on Manchester City, but unfortunately we couldn't score."

Antonio Conte believes "sport must be meritocratic" but called on UEFA to reflect after the European Super League project Inter signed up to crumbled.

Inter were among the 12 teams from Serie A, the Premier League and LaLiga to on Sunday back the formation of a breakaway tournament.

However, following widespread criticism, the plans fell apart on Tuesday as clubs opted to pull out in the wake of significant backlash from supporters, politicians and the media.

The Nerazzurri announced prior to their Serie A meeting with Spezia on Wednesday they would no longer be taking part in the Super League.

Conte is confident the club have made the right decision, but he urged UEFA to understand why the teams wanted to step away from the Champions League.

"As a sporting man, I think we mustn't ever forget tradition. This is history and it should be respected," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"We mustn't forget the passion for sport, and sport must be meritocratic. We work to win and to earn something. Meritocracy must always be first and foremost.

"Having said that, everything that happened shows it's only right that UEFA reflect too. They organise tournaments, take all the revenue and reserve only a minimal part of that for the teams who are actually taking part in these tournaments.

"The players are squeezed like lemons with this packed fixture list and get very little for it. The organisations need to consider better remuneration. Clubs invest in coaches and players, so they deserve some of the revenue they help to generate.

"If you get 10 from rights and keep seven of it for yourself, giving out just three to everybody else, that's not really fair. I think the split needs to be reconsidered."

UEFA announced on Monday that a new format for the Champions League would come into effect in 2024, with the competition expanding to accommodate 36 teams.

Instead of being split into groups, qualifying clubs will be part of a single league and play a minimum of 10 games rather than six.

Asked for his opinion of the new set-up, Conte replied: "I haven't really reflected on the format. It doesn't matter how many teams are in there, the important thing is that there is meritocracy, otherwise sport loses its meaning.

"Meritocracy is the most important thing, but also the organisations including those who run the international fixtures need to consider spreading out the resources a little better."

Inter were held to a 1-1 draw at Spezia but extended their lead at the top of Serie A to 10 points due to Milan's 2-1 home defeat to Sassuolo earlier in the day.

"Pressure is inevitable, and let's not forget that many players are challenging for something important for the first time. They are doing very well and I think we could easily have deserved the win," said Conte.

"I was happy with the intensity of the performance, though we could've had more quality in the final third, which is why we're talking about a draw rather than a win.

"There are fewer rounds left. We can see the finish line and the pressure is taking its toll.

"We used up a lot of energy and have another physical game coming up against [Hellas] Verona [on Sunday]."

UEFA has officially sanctioned a new-look Champions League a day after plans for a controversial breakaway European Super League were announced.

The reforms received unanimous backing from the ECA (European Club Association) Board and the UEFA Club Competitions Committee following what UEFA described as "extensive consultation across the football family".

Under new rules which were announced on Monday, there will be 36 teams competing in the Champions League instead of 32, while the present group-stage format – whereby there are eight pools of four – will be scrapped.

Each team will instead play 10 group games before advancing to a last-16 knockout format. The changes, which have faced criticism, will be implemented for the 2024-25 season onwards.

Similar format alterations will also be applied to the Europa League, with six matches in a league stage of the competition.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said: "This new format supports the status and future of the domestic game throughout Europe as well. It retains the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification and reconfirms the principles of solidarity right through the game and of open competition.

"This evolved format will still keep alive the dream of any team in Europe to participate in the UEFA Champions League thanks to results obtained on the pitch and it will enable long-term viability, prosperity, and growth for everyone in European football, not just a tiny, self-selected cartel.

"Football is a social and cultural treasure, enriched with values, traditions and emotions shared across our continent.  As the governing body and responsible stewards of the European game, it is UEFA's role to safeguard this legacy while leading positive future development of football in Europe for national associations, leagues, clubs, players, and fans at every level. 

"This is why we had an extensive consultation process over the last two years which led to the unanimous backing of our proposal and we are convinced that these reforms achieve those objectives."

The news comes following Sunday's announcement that 12 clubs have agreed to become founders members of a rival Super League, which has been met with widespread condemnation.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham from the Premier League have joined with Juventus, Milan and Inter of Serie A, and LaLiga giants Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid in signing up.

Europe's top leagues vowed to do all they can to block the project and UEFA described the breakaway plans a "cynical project".

In an emphatic response, UEFA together with the English Football Association, Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation and Serie A have joined forces in attempt to quell the Super League.

They reiterated a pledge to ban teams from other competitions if they take part in the Super League, while FIFA's threat of barring players from the World Cup was also alluded to.

Former Manchester United star Chris Smalling has spoken of the "harm and distress" his family felt after an armed burglary at their home in Rome.

Now playing for Roma, who will face United in the Europa League semi-finals, the 31-cap England international had his home raided in the early hours of Friday.

According to reports in Italy, Smalling handed over three Rolex watches, jewellery and money to the three men who entered the property in the Appia Antica district of Italy's capital.

Police were called after the terrifying incident, and 31-year-old Smalling wrote on Twitter on Saturday: "I'd like to thank everyone for your well wishes and support! My family although very shaken up are luckily unharmed!

"Hoping these people can find a more meaningful way to live their lives without causing such harm and distress to others."

Former United team-mate Marcus Rashford sent a message of support to Smalling on Friday, saying he was "so sorry" to hear of the break-in.

Rashford added: "Thinking about you @ChrisSmalling and your lovely family. Can’t imagine how you're feeling but I hope you're ok."

Smalling has been injured recently and did not play on Thursday when Roma edged past Ajax to reach the Europa League last four.

Marcus Rashford sent his support to Chris Smalling after the former Manchester United defender was reportedly a victim of an armed burglary.

Smalling and his family were said to have been at home in the Appia Antica district of Rome when three men with guns broke into the property and demanded a safe be opened.

The burglars reportedly fled with Rolex watches and jewellery and a small sum of cash.

La Gazzetta dello Sport said that a call to police was made by Smalling's wife at around 05:00 local time (04:00 GMT) on Friday, with an investigation subsequently launched.

United striker Rashford sent a message to his former club-mate, writing on Twitter: "Thinking about you @ChrisSmalling and your lovely family. So sorry to wake up to the news this morning. Can’t imagine how you're feeling but I hope you're ok."

Smalling has been injured recently and did not play on Thursday when Roma edged past Ajax to reach the Europa League semi-finals, with United awaiting them in the last four.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes winning the Europa League title can be a catalyst for his team after they reached another semi-final.

United set up a semi-final showdown with Roma after Thursday's 2-0 victory over Granada at Old Trafford sealed a 4-0 aggregate triumph.

Solskjaer's United have reached four semi-finals and lost them all – the Red Devils beaten in last season's Europa League semi, having also missed out on trips to the FA Cup and EFL Cup deciders in 2019-20.

United – second in the Premier League standings – also fell to Manchester City in this season's EFL Cup semi-final, leaving Solskjaer hungry for that last elusive step.

Not since the 2016-17 season, when they claimed the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield under former boss Jose Mourinho, have United won silverware.

"You know, when you get to a semi, that's the nature of the game," Solskjaer said during his post-match news conference after United advanced to their 18th semi-final in all European competition – only Liverpool (19) have appeared in more among English sides.

"You are playing against good teams. We've played against good teams but we relish the chance again to go to a final.

"I've seen the determination, the attitude in every player that we want to go one further because the disappointment of the defeats that we've had, they give us the motivation to go one step further and hopefully end the season on a high."

The first leg of the semi-final against Serie A side Roma will be played at Old Trafford on April 19, followed by a May 6 date at Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital.

Since losing their first two home games in the Europa League in 2011-12, United have not lost any of their last 17 games at Old Trafford in the competition (W13 D4).

United – who have won three consecutive knockout-stage games without conceding in major European competition for the first time since 2008 – have kept five clean sheets in six Europa League games since the turn of the year, more than any other side in 2021.

"This season has been difficult with no pre-season. It's not been possible for us to practice anything really, since the pre-season of 19-20. That's one thing," Solskjaer added.

"I think the next step for the team, of course, is to get to a final, to win a trophy. I think that would give this group of players something extra.

"The motivation is there. I see it. The determination is there to improve all the time. I've seen before a catalyst for a team is often to win a trophy, to get over the line. That's what we're aiming to do at the end of the season."

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is "feeling good" after returning home from two days in hospital with malaria, manager Mikel Arteta has confirmed.

The Gabon striker has been left out of the squad for Arsenal's last two matches and revealed on social media on Thursday that he contracted the virus during the recent international break. 

Aubameyang posted a picture of himself in a hospital bed and wearing a gown, but he has now been discharged and his health is improving.

Speaking at a news conference after Arsenal's 4-0 win over Slavia Prague on Thursday evening, which saw his side through to the Europa League semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate, Arteta said: "We just spoke with him. He's at home, he's fine.

"He had two days in hospital to get the right treatment, but he's feeling good now.

"Everybody has been in contact with him. He's been really supportive with every team-mate through messages and calls.

"He was watching the game like everybody else at Colney. David [Luiz], Martin [Odegaard], Kieran [Tierney]. Everybody who has not been able to be involved.

"It is what it is, these things happen. He travelled to his country and he picked it up and you know that these risks always exist."

Aubameyang has sat out Arsenal's wins over Sheffield United and Slavia, but he started the 3-0 loss to Liverpool on April 3 and was a second-half substitute in last week's first-leg against the Czech champions.

"When he wasn't involved against Sheffield United, two days before he wasn't feeling good, but nobody could expect that was the case," Arteta added.

"They did some more tests and that's when it came up and straight away the doctor realised very quickly what had to be done and they did a great job. He's safe and he's feeling good."

Aubameyang has not scored for Arsenal since the 1-1 draw with Burnley on March 6 in the Premier League - one of 14 goals he has managed in all competitions this season.

Arsenal host Fulham and Everton in their next two Premier League games, before the first leg of their Europa League semi-final with Villarreal on April 29.

Arteta is unsure when Aubameyang will be fit enough to return but is hopeful of having his captain back involved sooner rather than later.

"We'll see how he recovers," Arteta said. "I think he will need a few days to recover from that. He wants to back as soon as possible, that's what he said to me.

"But I don't know. If the treatment is efficient it shouldn't take too long."

Arsenal have won eight, drawn five and lost nine of the 22 Premier League games Aubameyang has started this term, compared to five wins, one draw and three losses in the nine games he has not started.

The Gunners also average more goals per game without Aubameyang in their line-up - 1.8 compared to 1.2 - while their average goals against figure rises from 1.0 to 1.2 when he is not included in the XI.

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.

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