By Richard Clarke
Villarreal may be largely unknown and unheralded but they will not be underestimated by Arsène Wenger in the Champions League Semi-Final this week.
Arsenal entertain the Spanish side on Wednesday and then visit El Madrigal next Tuesday. Having beaten Real Madrid and Juventus to get this far Wenger's men are tipped to reach their first ever final in Europe's top competition.
The Arsenal manager is backing the character of his young side to shine through but, at the same time, he is far from complacent. Villarreal beat Everton in qualifying, topped a group including Manchester United then saw off Rangers and Inter in the Knockout Rounds
"I must say that for me Villarreal is a 50/50 game," he said. "Against Barcelona or Milan [who contest the other Semi-Final] it would be in a situation where we would have a little less pressure, mental pressure but because we knocked out Juventus and Real Madrid people think we are a little favourites.
"Yet for me the Semi-Finals of a football game is where every detail has to be on your side and that's what will happen against Villarreal.
"I have not studied too much about them," said Wenger speaking ahead of the weekend game with West Brom. "But I believe they are a team that looks very sound defensively as a unit and it will be very important for us to create goal chances."
It would be foolish to expect anything other than a tight, tense two legs. Wenger knows his side is young but he feels their education has been fast-tracked by those high-profile scalps in previous rounds
"We have character," he said. "I feel there was a massive pressure before the second game against Real Madrid because they came here as a team, highly-motivated.
"Then we went to Juventus [2-0 ahead] and it was a huge pressure because you can only lose it as you have already qualified in the mind of people. Yet the players were completely fine. But that is why I am confident," he concluded, "because I know my team has character."
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 15 Apr 2006