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Europa League specialist Emery threatens Arsenal’s shot at salvation

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Sitting 10th in the Premier League, the Gunners are on course for their worst league finish since 1995.

But Mikel Arteta’s men are also just three games away from only the club’s third ever European trophy and a much-needed ticket back into the Champions League for the first time in five seasons.

All is not well at the Emirates on or off the field. Ahead of Friday’s 1-0 defeat by Everton, thousands of fans demonstrated against Arsenal’s owner Stan Kroenke, calling on the American billionaire to sell the club following his role in a collapsed European Super League.

It is easy to see why Kroenke sought the guaranteed income the Super League would provide.

For 19 seasons between 1998/99 and 2016/17, the Londoners never failed to qualify for the Champions League. Now they are set to finish outside the Premier League’s top four for a fifth consecutive year.

That decline started prior to Emery’s 18-month spell in charge between May 2018 and November 2019.

The Spaniard missed out on the top four by a point and got to the Europa League final in his only full season in charge, but was dismissed just four months into his second.

Arsenal were one of 12 breakaway clubs seeking the reassurance of top level European football every season without facing the perils of having to qualify.

“I want to win for myself and for Villarreal. (Two years ago) I was defending Arsenal’s red colours in that final against Chelsea, now I feel that affinity for the yellow of Villarreal. I have that competitive instinct, that responsibility I owe the club and everyone I represent with my decisions.”

A three-time Europa League winner during his time at Sevilla, the 49-year-old has won 28 out of 31 knockout ties in the competition across spells at four different clubs.

Revenge is also on Villarreal minds for those with a far longer connection to the club than Emery.

A first ever major trophy is also the Spanish side’s only route into next season’s Champions League.

“The two clubs have their own history between themselves,” added Emery. “It will be a great contest, regardless of my having coached there recently.”

In the other semi-final, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is aiming to reach a final at the fifth time of asking since taking charge of the Red Devils against Roma.

Under the Norwegian, the English giants have twice fallen at the last four in the League Cup and in the semi-finals of last season’s Europa League and FA Cup.

With United realistically assured of a top-four finish in the Premier League, but too far off Manchester City to mount a title challenge, ending a four-year trophy drought is the major prize left on offer for Solskjaer’s men this season.

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Chelsea pair Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner out for some matches

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Lukaku twisted his ankle in a tackle which led to a penalty and Werner hurt his hamstring while running – both in the first half.

“It will take a while for both of them, and we will need more examinations to be precise,” said Tuchel.

“They will be out for some matches.”

Chelsea have a relatively straightforward run of games against Norwich, Southampton in the Carabao Cup, Newcastle, Malmo and Burnley.

Record signing Lukaku, 28, has not scored for Chelsea in seven games after four goals in his first four matches.

“If I knew what would happen beforehand I would not have done it (started the pair), but how can you know it before?” said Tuchel.

“It was necessary that Romelu was on the pitch. He started strong, I spoke to him about it, about mental fatigue carried around with him.

“But he’s our number nine and our reference up front. And the best thing for mental fatigue is a goal.

“He took the foul to win the first penalty so maybe without him it’s not 2-0.”

Andreas Christensen put Chelsea ahead and Jorginho scored two penalties – either side of a Kai Havertz goal.

German Werner, 25, has only scored twice in 10 games this season.

Tuchel said: “The race is on, the guys who start against Norwich have our trust and we will try to find new solutions.

“We have won games before without Werner and Lukaku, we don’t want these problems too often but it happens during a season.”

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No room for niceties as Suarez and Liverpool reunite again

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Luis Suarez reunites with Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday and for another 90 minutes, a fans’ favourite and cherished former club will have to be enemies again.

He flicked the ball away as Liverpool tried to take a throw. He confronted Fabinho, hoping to stir a reaction. Fabinho was booked for the challenge that followed, Suarez rolling on the floor, hands clasped around his leg.

“I just can’t get enough,” the Liverpool fans once sang. Now it was: “Cheat, cheat, cheat”.

Liverpool triumphed, a historic comeback turning a 3-0 first-leg defeat into a 4-3 win on aggregate, Suarez’s anguish only adding to the satisfaction. They adored Suarez playing for them but despised him playing against them and at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, they will expect nothing different.

In an interview with the BBC last year, Steven Gerrard talked about Suarez agitating even his teammates in training.

“He went against them, he struggled with them, he raised his elbows and I thought, ‘This is not what you normally see in training’,” Gerrard said. “Normally, you see a lot of respect, but Luis would crush anyone.”

It was that same drive and defiance that made Suarez join Atletico Madrid after being cast off by Barcelona.

Suarez told Diario Sport this month he was “treated like he was 15” by Ronald Koeman and the club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, “leaked that he was damaging the dressing room”.

Suarez had not enjoyed his best season for Barca and there was an argument to say his style was depriving the team of a more mobile, free-flowing attack. But he wanted to show he still belonged to the elite and wanted to show Barcelona close up. He scored 21 goals in 38 games for Atletico last term and the one goal that won them the title.

Diego Simeone called it “the Suarez Zone”, a tendency to deliver when it matters most, and before the international break, there he was again, scoring in 2-0 win over Barcelona.

He celebrated by making a phone gesture in the direction of Koeman, seemingly in reference to their 40-second goodbye call.

He spoke of his close relationship with Liverpool’s staff and how his children learned the excitement of football in the city. He posed for a photo, giving a thumbs up next to the club’s crest on a wall.

None of that was insincere. Liverpool was the club that raised Suarez from a precocious talent at Ajax to one of the most feared strikers in the world.

With them, he had shared joy and despair. When Liverpool missed out on winning the Premier League in 2014, a pivotal defeat by Crystal Palace left him crying under his shirt. But now Suarez was celebrating their disappointment and the Liverpool fans remembered. In the second leg they booed and heckled as Suarez got to work again.

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Man City hope to have Ederson, Jesus ready for Brugge clash

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The British government said this month that fully vaccinated Premier League players could travel to red-list countries during the international break and train or play when they quarantine for 10 days in “bespoke facilities” on their return.

The duo were in World Cup qualifying action against Uruguay in Manaus last Friday and missed Saturday’s 2-0 Premier League victory over Burnley having been asked to travel directly to Belgium for the European game.

“They’re in Belgium right now. I think they told me they can play, but we’ll see in which condition we have time to prepare a training session,” Guardiola said.

“Because we have to train here. They’ll not be here, so I have to think about it. We sent them there because the day after Brugge they can come back and make a normal life.

“If they had come back directly to Manchester, they would have been isolated for 10 days in one hotel. We didn’t want that and that’s why they traveled to Belgium. Maybe they’re able to play, that’s the good news.”

City won their Group A opener against RB Leipzig 6-3 before losing 2-0 to Paris St Germain to sit third in the standings.

“I love the pressure. I know what we have to do. We have to win. We know that,” Guardiola added. “We live all the time on the edge. Now we rest. We don’t have much time.”

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