Villarreal will take on Manchester United in this season’s Europa League final in Gdansk.
Villarreal endured a disappointing and demoralizing end to their La Liga season. A 2-1 defeat to runners-up Real Madrid on the final matchday dealt a fatal blow to the Yellow Submarine’s chances of entering this competition next season. Villarreal took the lead in that match through Yeremi Pino’s strike in the 20th minute but Karim Benzema’s goal in the 87th minute followed by Luka Modric’s strike in added time foiled their plans.
In the end, Real Sociedad and Real Betis beat them to secure European football and Villarreal finished seventh in the league, just three points behind Real Betis in sixth. Head coach Unai Emery will now have his sights firmly set on the Europa League final, a competition he won three years in a row with Sevilla.
Manchester United, on the other hand, had a pretty solid Premier League season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. They ended their domestic campaign with a 2-1 win against Wolves, placing them second in the table. That win meant that the Red Devils had spent an entire season without being defeated away from home in the Premier League.
VILLARREAL’S JOURNEY TO THE EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL
Villarreal were drawn in Group I of the Europa League this season along with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Sivasspor, and Qarabag FK. They comfortably finished on top with five wins and a draw and made it to the knockout stages with ease.
In the Round of 32 stage, the Yellow Submarine were up against Austrian club RB Salzburg. They managed to come out on top in that fixture with a 4-1 margin across the two legs. They were then paired up against Dynamo Kyiv in the Round of 16 stage. Emery’s team scored two goals each across both the legs without conceding any from Kyiv and booked their place in the quarter-final of the Europa League.
Villarreal managed to prevail over Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb in the quarter-finals with a 3-1 aggregate over the two legs.
A tougher opponent in Arsenal in the semi-final did not deter them and Emery’s side beat Mikel Arteta’s team 2-1 over two legs. Late in the second leg, the Yellow Submarine were able to hold on to their slender one-goal lead at the Emirates Stadium and ended up booking their tickets to Gdansk for the Europa League final!
MANCHESTER UNITED’S JOURNEY TO THE EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL
Manchester United had begun their journey in the Champions League Group H this season alongside Paris Saint Germain, RB Leipzig, and Istanbul Basaksehir. After a disappointing group-stage campaign consisting of three wins and three losses, United finished third in the group and were demoted from the Champions League to the Europa League.
They were paired up against Spanish side Real Sociedad in the Round of 32 and United ended up winning by a comfortable 4-0 margin. They were then up against another European heavyweight in AC Milan in the Round of 16 stage. A late goal from Simon Kjaer helped Milan level the scores at 1-1 after the first leg at Old Trafford. However, Paul Pogba scored the only goal in the second leg at San Siro to help the Red Devils overcome the threat of the Rossoneri with a 2-1 aggregate win.
Another Spanish side in Granada awaited United in the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Solskjaer’s side scored two goals each across both legs of the fixture to register yet another 4-0 aggregate victory.
In the first leg of the semi-final against AS Roma, Manchester United ran riot at the Old Trafford and ended up winning 6-2! They then survived a few scares from Roma in the away leg and though they lost the match 3-2, ended up winning the tie 8-5 and managed to set up a Europa League final clash against Villarreal from Spain.
KEY STATS AHEAD OF THE EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL
- Manchester United will square off against Villarreal for the fifth time in the history of both the clubs. The last four games between the two sides ended in a 0-0 draw.
- This is the first time that Villarreal have reached the final of a major European competition. On the other hand, this is Manchester United’s eighth major European final. Only Liverpool have played more.
EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL PREDICTION
With Harry Maguire likely to miss the clash, in-form striker Gerard Moreno — who finished as the second-highest scorer in La Liga behind Messi — will be Unai Emery’s key player.
However, the Red Devils have too much quality in personnel compared to Villarreal and have a real chance of winning their first European trophy since the Europa League victory in 2017.
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