Football

3 Villarreal players to watch as Unai Emery takes his side into Champions League quarter-finals

Unai Emery continued his impressive Champions League journey as manager of Villarreal. His club have defeated Juventus and reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

The ex-Arsenal boss is doing a phenomenal job in Europe this season. His side eased past the Italian giants in the round of 16.

The clubs played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg last month. But on Wednesday night, the tie was put to bed in Turin. The visitors ran out 3-0 winners, securing a 4-1 aggregate win over Juve.

It was another very impressive display from the exciting Spanish side. They carried out their duties expertly under the watchful eye of Emery.

But which Villarreal players should fans keep an eye on in the quarter-finals?

Arnaut Danjuma

Just last season, Danjuma was playing Championship football for Bournemouth. He was, of course, one of the league’s brightest sparks. His efforts for the 2020/21 campaign saw him clinch the club’s Player of the Season award. One year later and the forward is playing Champions League football.

His five goals in this season’s competition place him level with Lionel Messi. Moreover, he boasts eight La Liga goals, despite a disappointing season overall for the club, who sit in seventh. The versatile attacker can play as a centre-forward or on the left-wing.

Gerard Moreno

Moreno joins Danjuma on eight La Liga goals for the season. The striker has been a constant threat in the final third. Both he and Danjuma netted in the latest Champions League win over Juventus.

The Spaniard is a team player, but undoubtedly knows where the net is when the time comes. Whether it be headed goals, strikes from the ground, volleys, or indeed goals from the penalty spot, Moreno is always trouble for defenders. He starred in the club’s successful Europa League run last season.

Yeremy Pino

Perhaps the most excitement within the club is reserved for young star Pino. The teenage winger has seven goals and four assists in all competitions this season. Four of those goals arrived in the same match, when the 19-year-old stunned Espanyol all on his own last month.

His direct dribbling and skilful attacking have reportedly caught the eye of several top European clubs.

Villarreal reliant on ex-Premier League men

Interestingly, the current Villarreal side is filled with ex-Premier League talent. And that begins in the dugout with ex-Arsenal boss Emery. Joining him is former Gunners midfielder Francis Coquelin. Continuing the north London theme are ex-Tottenham trio Giovani Lo Celso, Serge Aurier and Juan Foyth.

Also currently lining out for the Spanish club is former Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno and ex-Watford midfielder Etienne Capoue. Danjuma is, of course, another to have played Premier League football once upon a time.

It’s been a hugely impressive season in Europe for Spanish clubs overall. Villarreal, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are all into the last eight of the Champions League. And in the Europa League, Barcelona, Sevilla and Real Betis all remain.

About the author

Peter Lynch

Sports Journalism graduate from the University of Stirling, huge Liverpool and Northern Ireland fan, currently working as a freelancer.