The former Arsenal manager will go head-to-head with his replacement Mikel Arteta in the Europa League semi-finals for Villarreal.
Unai Emery has played down his history with Arsenal as his primary focus lies on leading Villarreal to a first major European final.
The Spaniard set a date with his former club in the Europa League semi-finals following Villarreal’s 2-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday, ensuring a 3-1 aggregate quarter-final triumph.
The Yellow Submarine have now reached the last four in a major European competition four times in the Champions League, UEFA Cup, and Europa League since 2004.
But they lost in each of their last three semi-finals, including one to Arsenal in the Champions League in 2006.
You again, @Arsenal?
— Villarreal CF English (@Eng_Villarreal) April 15, 2021
“We are happy. It was a challenge, but the trajectory in the Europa League is being very serious and we are responding at a higher level every time,” said Emery as per Marca.
“We have taken the game where we feel more comfortable. We have [managed] it both here and in Zagreb.”
Emery famously led Sevilla to three Europa League titles in a row between 2013 and 2016. He also took Arsenal to the final in his first season in charge in 2018/19 before the club sacked him in November 2019.
So while his reunion with Arsenal in the semi-finals will probably dominate headlines in the build-up, Emery’s focus is on Villarreal and a fourth Europa League title.
Unai Emery won the Europa League three times.
Then he took Arsenal to the Europa League final.
Then he was sacked by the Gunners after a Europa League game.
Of course he’ll now face his former team with his new club, Villarreal… in the Europa League. pic.twitter.com/sh8chAy1Xm
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 15, 2021
“It is a challenge, something that Villarreal has already done,” continued Emery.
“Breaking the barrier of the semi-finals is the great challenge. The idea of reaching the Champions League through the Europa League is very important.
“When I signed here this was [part of the process]. You have to live each moment. We are receiving people’s dream. The dream increases.
“My past at Arsenal is less important.”
The first leg between Villarreal and Arsenal takes place on April 29 in Spain before the two clubs meet again a week later on May 6 for the second leg of the semi-final tie.
A final with either Manchester United or AS Roma awaits on May 26 for whoever wins.