Borja Valero in action against Leverkusen last March. Villarreal won that one on German soil; do they have a chance this time? (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Villarreal's European adventure, such as it has been in this injury-filled season, lurches toward its conclusion with a match Tuesday in the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich. This stadium will host the Champions League final this season, and Bayern will be wanting to finish top of Group A as they progress to the knockout rounds.
For the Yellow Submarine, they do have a theoretical chance of finishing third in the group and dropping into the Europa League round of 32, but the odds are not great. It would be a mistake to say things are rosy at El Madrigal, but at least a couple of wins in la Liga at home and a draw on the road at Espanyol have enabled the team to move out of the relegation zone and toward the European places.
But without Nilmar, Rossi, Cani, Zapata, etc. coach Garrido has gone to a counterattacking style featuring the speed on Hernán Pérez and the intelligence and passing skill of Borja Valero, who has been operating almost as a withdrawn striker behind Marco Ruben. This formation has produced results in Spain; can it spring a surprise in Munich?
Well, truthfully, probably not. Bayern, even with a loss to Borussia Dortmund last weekend, are the Bundesliga leaders, and they handled a relatively full-strength Villarreal easily in El Madrigal even without Arjen Robben. Gomez, Ribery, Muller, Robben--they're all lethal attackers. The one bright spot for the Yellow Submarine is Bayern will be missing Bastian Schweinsteiger, and since he's gone down with an injury the Germans have looked more vulnerable.
Here is Allen, Sid and Ravi's take on the game and predictions
I expect Villarreal to go with as much experience as they can: this means Diego López in goal, Catalá, Gonzalo, Marchena and Angel Lopez in defense, Bruno and Senna in the doble pivote with Perez, Borja and de Guzman, and Ruben. The Bayern defense is not terribly quick, and if Pérez can create some anxious moments among that back four, Marco Ruben, Borja or even deGuzman could find some chances to put the ball past Neuer.
Remember in the first match Bayern scored early, after that Villarreal came into the game more but it was a quick one-two that unlocked the defense and Lopez failed to parry a fine shot across him. For the Submarine to have a chance, they have to be equally unforgiving. They may only get one or two good chances: finish those off and who knows what will happen, fail to do so and it could be a long night.
Regardless, I don't think this match is going to be the cakewalk some are predicting, but, as has been the case too often this season, I expect Villarreal's commitment and application won't be able to make up for the quality of the Bayern attacking play.
I'm predicting a 2-1 Bayern win, but Villarreal will give a good account of itself. (But for a contrasting view, listen to our podcast snippet). Endavant Villarreal!!