Cazorla blow for Villarreal

Midfielder out for season; Wenger hails former Gunner Pires

Cazorla: To miss Arsenal tie

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Villarreal have been rocked with the news that midfielder Santi Cazorla will miss the rest of the season through injury.

Cazorla broke his right leg after falling awkwardly in Saturday's 3-0 Primera Division loss to Almeria.

The Spaniard's absence is a blow ahead of Villarreal's UEFA Champions League first leg meeting with Arsenal next Tuesday.

"It's a bitter blow to morale for the whole team. He is an important player to lose at such a difficult and critical time in the season," Villarreal managing director Jose Manuel Llaneza told AS.

Pires

Meanwhile, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has reserved praise for playmaker Robert Pires, who spent six impressive years under the Frenchman in North London.

Wenger said in the News of the World: "I have spoken to him and he is working very hard in training to be ready to face us.

"Robert hides very well a strong determination so I expect him to be highly motivated to do well against us.

"Before his first cruciate injury he was the best player in the world in his position. We just gave him the ball and he would do the rest.

"I would have loved him to stay longer. He was such a great example. He is one of the greatest players to have played for us.

"I believe there are some easier teams to be playing in the final eight than Villarreal. But we have a chance so let's really go for it."