Unai Emery has described Arsenal skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a ‘killer’ ahead of their Europa League semi-final clash.
Emery’s Villarreal hold a close 2-1 aggregate lead after the first leg thanks to goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol.
Nicolas Pepe scored a 73rd-minute spot-kick for the Gunners which could prove to be a vital away goal in the tie.
Emery was in charge of Arsenal when Aubameyang scored a hat-trick against Valencia to send them into the 2019 Europa League final.
They ultimately lost 4-1 to London rivals Chelsea in Azerbaijan, but Emery is hoping the forward cannot recreate his semi-final magic this time around.
When asked about Aubameyang at a pre-match press conference, Emery said: “Aubameyang is a killer.
“He was, he is and he will always be. He has been through a process of being out of the team because of the illness he has had but he is back.
“He is there to work, to defend the team and give everything for the team, hoping he can perform at the top level and if that happens he is going to be very difficult to stop.
“We expect to find the best Aubameyang possible, the same with Granit Xhaka, I think he is a great person, a really great footballer.
“He [Aubameyang] was the top scorer in the Premier League when I was there, he is really good physically and is a killer, like I said.”
Emery believes Arsenal are still favourites to progress despite his team’s aggregate lead.
He added: “I consider the first-leg result does not change how I see the initial competition.
“Arsenal started as favourites and they are still favourites at this stage. We will try to compete against this kind of team – those favourite teams – but the first-leg result is really narrow to make anything change.
“Why (are they favourites)? Because of history, because of the present, because of the ability and the level, from the budget, from the players they have in their squad – I consider them favourites. We are the underdogs.”
Arsenal welcome Emery and Villarreal to the Emirates on Thursday at 20:00.