VALENCIA • Valencia coach Marcelino has started the mind games by saying Arsenal are "the favourites" in their Europa League semi-final next month.
The Spanish team, owned by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, eased into the Europe's second-tier club competition for the first time in five years - a 2-0 home win over fellow LaLiga side Villarreal on Thursday giving them a resounding 5-1 aggregate scoreline.
Toni Lato and Dani Parejo scored the goals that secured the victory and set up a meeting with Arsenal and Valencia's former coach Unai Emery after the London side won 1-0 at Napoli and 3-0 on aggregate.
Full-back Lato strolled into a gaping hole in defence to volley Valencia in front in the 13th minute at a rain-swept Mestalla to settle the home side, who enjoyed a 3-1 win at Villarreal in the first leg.
The lead was doubled early in the second half with a free kick by captain Parejo, which took a deflection off defender Ramiro Funes Mori.
The only disappointment for Marcelino's side is that their former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin is suspended for the first leg at the Emirates Stadium on May 2 after a late booking for handball.
"We are very excited about the prospect of reaching another final in our centenary year," said Marcelino, whose side will play Barcelona in the King's Cup final on May 25.
"Arsenal have great players and a coach who knows us perfectly well, so they are one of the favourites.
"But, in a semi-final, anything can happen. Perhaps they will be under a bigger obligation to win than us, but we have the same excitement."
Emery coached Valencia between 2008 and 2012, securing three top-three finishes in a row.
He later eliminated Valencia in the 2014 Europa League semi-finals when in charge of Sevilla, who edged into the final on away goals after snatching a 3-3 aggregate draw with a stoppage-time goal.
Valencia striker Santi Mina added: "Arsenal are a very difficult side, but we are Valencia and we can compete with anybody.
"We've already reached the King's Cup final... and we want to give the fans something more to shout about."