They say familiarity breeds contempt. If so, then Villarreal and PAOK F.C. should enter today's Europa League encounter with studs up, having met a fortnight ago at El Madrigal. Expect a charged atmosphere at the Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki, Greece's 2nd-largest city, as the home side looks to avenge a 1-0 defeat thanks to Marco Ruben.
Villarreal comes in riding a 10-match unbeaten streak in all competitions (since our stinker in Zagreb), so confidence is high. The team's form away from El Madrigal remains uneven, but historically we have fared well against Greek sides. Thank you, Srs. Mavuba, Tomasson, Ibagaza, and Llorente.
Garrido's 19-man squad:
Keepers: Diego López, Juan Carlos & Oliva.
Defenders: Ángel, Gonzalo, Catalá, Marchena, Capdevila, Joan Oriol, Musacchio & Mario.
Midfielders: Bruno, Borja Valero, Cani, Cazorla & Jefferson Montero.
Forwards: Rossi, Nilmar & Altidore.
Ruben and Senna remain injured, removing 2 likely starters from the manager's disposal. 3 goalkeepers and 8 defenders (again) are in the mix, so expect some rotations in back. Here's hoping for a big match from Santi.
My expected starting XI (anyone's guess, really):
Capdevila – Gonzalo – Marchena – Mario
Cazorla – Borja – Bruno – Montero
Altidore – Nilmar
Prediction: Matches in Greece always are difficult, particularly after a week away from El Madrigal. PAOK has trouble scoring, so keep an eye on set-piece defending. To confirm our recent trend, I’ll say 1-1, but we could snatch all 3 points late. Endavant Villarreal!