Villarreal to use 'zonal defence' to counter Henry

April 19, 2006

Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini feels good old fashioned hard work has been the key to his side's success in the Champions League this season and that 'zonal defence' is the best way to counter the threat of Thierry Henry.

The Spanish outfit take on Arsenal in the first leg of their semi-final at Highbury tonight having very much exceeded expectations.

Like the Gunners, Villarreal have reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time - and on their debut season in the competition.

They knocked out Everton from the qualifiers and finished ahead of Manchester United in the group stages, before dispatching Rangers and then Serie A giants Inter Milan on the away-goals rule in the quarter-finals.

It is some achievement for what is in all respects a modest club on the outskirts of Valencia, with a population of around only 47,000 - significantly less than the capacity of Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium.

That, though, has not stopped the `Yellow Submarine' making a splash among Europe's elite clubs this season after finishing third in the Primera Division last season.

'Any team that plays Villarreal is favourite because we have not got big history, curriculum or money,' declared their Chilean head coach.

'Many supporters did not expect to be in the semi-finals of the Champions League - but why we are here is because of the good work ethic of the team.

'That does not mean we do not want to go further and that we are not capable of doing so.'

Arsenal have set a new record of eight consecutive clean sheets, reaching the last four on the back of some impressive collective displays.

Pellegrini reflected: 'I would not define Arsenal as just [Thierry] Henry and a good defence.

'They deserve to be here and have eliminated good teams like Real [Madrid] and Juventus.

'There are many coaches who try to stop Henry - but that is why he is Henry, he can invent amazing things on the pitch.

Pellegrini added: 'We are going to use a zonal defence.'

As well as having Juan Roman Riquelme pulling the strings in midfield, there is further South American influence in the Villarreal side through striker Diego Forlan, once of Manchester United.

Despite their successes against Everton and his former club, the Uruguayan insisted: 'Arsenal is a different team.

'We played well against other English teams at different stages and we know it will be really hard.

'We will try to do what we have done before - try to win, that is the main target.

'You have to try to play the same way we have been playing - there are no special tricks, you just play according to your own game and take into consideration that they are very strong.

'We are going to try to get a good result so we can decide on the second leg.

'Scoring a goal is very important because they have been playing very solidly defensively.'

Forlan added: 'We know we are not the favourites. Every team is favourite against us - but on the pitch is where you speak.'