By Randy Osae
Spanish contenders Villareal will be Arsenal’s opponents in the Champions League’s quarter-finals.
The Gunners face an unfamiliar prospect of playing the first leg away from home. Incidentally, the last time they were involved in such scenario was the ousting by PSV in 2006/07’s competition.
Arsenal’s progression will create the possibility of an all-English semi-final meeting with Manchester United. The Gunners will face the winner of either the reigning champions or FC Porto should they make it through.
But Wenger’s men will have to handle the ‘yellow submarines’ of Villareal first. That means a return home for former Arsenal darling Robert Pires who is raring to make an emotional reunion.
“Of course it will be a special match. Returning there makes me very happy and today, as a Villarreal player, I want to win to continue in the competition with my team.” Pires said.
“I know it will be difficult, but given what I know of the two teams, I sincerely believe that we can progress to the next round.
“I think we have a team that can reach the final and we are on the road to that. To reach our goal we have to defeat the best and we are going to try to do that.”
The French winger’s last contributions for Arsenal was helping scrape past current club Villalreal en route to 2006’s final. Arsenal edged out in that tie courtesy of a famous late penalty save from Lehmann which kept the advantage of Toure’s lone goal in the first-leg. That was the only time this fixture occurred in history.
Arsenal’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis was also confident after the draw: “Every team at this point in the competition is difficult, it’s going to be a real challenge but we believe in the quality of our team,” he said.
The first legs will be played on 7/8 April with the second legs on 14/15 April.