Emery claims Arsenal ARE favourites to reach the Europa League final

Unai Emery claims Arsenal ARE the favourites to reach the Europa League final despite losing first leg to Villarreal as Spaniard insists Mikel Arteta’s side are ‘one or two notches above’ LaLiga outfit on eve of his return to north London

  • Unai Emery claims Arsenal remain favourites to reach the Europa League final 
  • Emery’s Villarreal hold a slender first leg advantage of Mikel Arteta’s Gunners
  • However, the Spaniard says his old side are ‘one or two notches’ above Villarreal 
  • Emery also warned his players of the threat of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 

Unai Emery insists Arsenal remain favourites to reach the Europa League final despite losing the first leg of their semi-final against Villarreal.

Emery, sacked as Arsenal manager in November 2019, returns to the Emirates for the first time on Thursday with his new club leading 2-1 after last week’s win over the Gunners in Spain.

But Emery said: ‘I consider the first leg result does not change how I see the initial competition. Arsenal started as a favourites and they are still favourites at this stage.

Unai Emery claims that Arsenal remain favourites to reach the Europa League final

Emery’s Villarreal hold a slender lead over the Gunners heading into Thursday’s second leg

‘We are candidates to be able to play against this kind of teams and we’ll try to compete against this kind of team, those favourite teams but the first-leg result is really narrow to make anything change.

‘Why? Because of history, because of the present, because of the ability and the level from the budget to the players that they have in this squad. I consider them as favourites.

‘We are the underdogs but our team has been acknowledged in Europe. We have certain recognition and have been showing our level for years.

However, former Gunners boss Emery says Arsenal are ‘one or two notches above’ Villarreal

‘We have played a semi-final of the Champions League. We are a solid team with an ability to reach these heights but I now think Arsenal in that respect are one or two notches above us.’

Arsenal will be boosted by the return to full fitness of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who appeared off the bench last week after recovering from malaria.

Emery has happy memories of Aubameyang who scored a second leg hat-trick against Valencia to inspire Arsenal into the Europa League semi-finals two years ago.

Emery said: ‘Aubameyang is a killer. He was, he is and he always will be. He has been through a process of being out of the team because of the illness he had but he is back.

Emery warned that it would be tough for his side to stop ‘killer’ Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

‘Aubameyang is there to work, to defend the team, give everything for the team and hoping he can perform at top level for the team and when that happens he is going to be very difficult to stop.

‘We expect to find the best Aubameyang. I think he is a great person and behind that great person a really great footballer.

‘I think he was one of the top scorers of the Premier League when I was there or the top scorer. He has shown a great performance, he is really good physically. He is a killer.’

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