It’s approaching crunch time in the Europa League, as we’ve reached the semi-final stage.
Two English sides progressed to the final four, with Manchester United and Arsenal comfortably seeing off Granada and Slavia Prague in their second legs.
They are joined by Villarreal, who knocked out Dynamo Kiev, and Roma, who narrowly defeated Dutch giants Ajax.
Man Utd will face Roma in the semi-finals, while Arsenal meet Villarreal.
The stakes are high for all four remaining clubs. It’s Man Utd’s final realistic chance this season to end their trophy drought, having not lifted a piece of silverware since this competition in 2017. For a club of their stature and history, this is too long without a trophy.
Meanwhile, the Europa League gives Arsenal a chance to get back into the Champions League. The Gunners have not competed in the tournament since 2017, having featured in the previous 19 editions.
Villarreal are yet to win a major trophy in their history. However, manager Unai Emery knows all about this competition, winning it three times in a row with Sevilla.
As for Roma, they are without silverware since 2008 and only have the 1961 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup to boast on the European stage.
Here is every meeting from previous years between the semi-finalists.
Manchester United vs Roma
Man Utd and Roma have faced each other six times, and they all came within the space of one year and five days from April 4, 2007, to April 9, 2008.
The first meeting was in the Champions League quarter-finals of the 2006/07 season, and it was La Lupa who took the first leg.
Following Paul Scholes’ early red card, Rodrigo Taddei gave Roma the lead just before half time with a strike that took a huge deflection.
Two influential Man Utd figures combined for the equaliser, as current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer crossed for all-time top goalscorer Wayne Rooney, who slammed home the equaliser. However, Mirko Vucinic struck a winner with 23 minutes remaining.
Unfortunately for Roma, this was their only victory over the English side. The return leg was far more comfortable for the Red Devils, who progressed after a 7-1 win.
They drew level on aggregate early on with a beauty from Michael Carrick and were soon 3-0 ahead on the night with goals from Alan Smith and Rooney.
Cristiano Ronaldo extended their lead before the break with his first (but CERTAINLY not his last) Champions League goal.
Ronaldo added a second to his tally after the break, and Carrick netted another screamer to make it 6-0. A fantastic volley from Daniele De Rossi was nothing more than a consolation, and a deflected effort from Patrice Evra ensured that the tie ended 8-3 on aggregate.
They would face each other four times in the following year of the competition, being drawn against each other in the groups and again in the quarter-finals.
The first of these was at Old Trafford, with the hosts emerging victorious through Rooney’s strike. The reverse fixture ended as a 1-1 draw, with Gerard Pique’s header being cancelled out by Brazilian winger Mancini in the last 20 minutes.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men registered two more wins against Roma later on in the tournament, knocking them out 3-0 on aggregate.
Ronaldo’s bullet header and Rooney’s tap in gave Man Utd a commanding lead going into the home leg. Carlos Tevez ensured their progression with a diving header after De Rossi had missed a first-half penalty.
Man Utd ended up winning the Champions League that year, defeating Chelsea on penalties in the final.
Arsenal vs Villarreal
These two first met in a tense Champions League semi-final back in 2006. Manuel Pellegrini’s Villarreal had knocked out Rangers and Inter Milan to reach this stage, while Arsenal had defeated Real Madrid and Juventus without conceding a goal in the knockouts.
It was a tight defence that took Arsene Wenger’s men through to the final, winning 1-0 on aggregate. The only goal of the tie came from Kolo Toure, who turned Alexander Hleb’s cross into the back of the net from close range.
The Spaniards had a glorious chance in the second leg to force the game to extra time when Gael Clichy brought down Jose Mari in the 89th minute. Argentinian legend Juan Roman Riquelme stepped up, but his penalty was kept out by Jens Lehmann.
Arsenal and Villarreal would meet again three years later, this time in the Champions League quarter-final stage.
The first leg at the Estadio de la Ceramica (then known as El Madrigal) finished 1-1. Brazilian midfielder Senna gave the Yellow Submarine the lead, but Emmanuel Adebayor levelled in the second half.
The return leg at the Emirates was a comfortable affair for the hosts, who took the lead with a moment of real quality. Cesc Fabregas fed Theo Walcott with a brilliant flick, and the winger lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the far corner.
Deft Fabregas 🤤
A simply glorious @cesc4official assist for Arsenal against Villarreal 👏
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 15, 2021
The Gunners secured their progression in the second half, with the game finishing 3-0. Robin van Persie assisted Adebayor for his second goal of the tie before the Dutchman bagged one for himself from the penalty spot.