I needed 24 hours to digest the "Debacle in Odense." We dominated the match for long spells but were unable to convert on a plethora of chances.
And then the law of football came to pass: the team that does not capitalize on its opportunities shall pay. One of many poor passes from goal kicks by Diego López. A horrible decision and execution by Cristián Zapata. A cool finish by Odense striker Andreasen. Despair in Spain, joy in Denmark.
The Villarreal starting XI: Diego López; Mario - Musacchio - Zapata - Oriol; Cani - Bruno - Marchena - Borja; Rossi - Nilmar. Experienced campaigners Gonzalo Rodríguez and Marcos Senna missed out, but manager Juan Carlos Garrido had let on as much in the preseason matches against Everton and Lazio.
Villarreal had good memories of Danish competition, having taken 4 points from 6 against Aalborg in the 2008-09 Champions League group stage. We had also beaten Odense 5-0 on aggregate in the 2004 Intertoto Cup.
Odense's history against Spanish opposition was more mixed, having taken only 1 point from 6 against Getafe in last year's Europa League. However, its most famous result was a 0-2 victory at the Bernabéu in the 1994-95 UEFA Cup, overturning a 2-3 home defeat. Move over, Miracle in Madrid?
Odense scored 4 away goals to defeat Panathinaikos in the Champions League third qualifying round. Based on our experiences in Greece, that is no small feat. So we had to be mindful of the Danes, particularly on the wings and from set pieces. And Bashkim Kadrii lived up to that billing.
- Nilmar nearly scored the goal of the year (yes, already) after a phenomenal save by Diego López on Traore. Our keeper then chucked the ball up the middle of the park to a streaking Nilmar. The Brazilian striker flew by two defenders with his trademark burst (he's back!), cut across a third, and attempted to chip Wessels in the Odense goal. Nilmar may have been able to round the opposing keeper, but who can blame him after a full-field sprint? What could have been.
- The interplay between Nilmar and Giuseppe Rossi was brilliant for most of the match. But the Italian striker seemed a bit off in his finishing. Nothing a few more training sessions can't fix, I think.
- Rubén Cani was absolutely invisible in his first big opportunity to fill the boots of Santi Cazorla. We needed a lot more from him, particularly with Bruno Soriano and Carlos Marchena in the doble pivote.
- On that central midfield pairing, Senna needs to start in the return leg. If he's not fit for 90 minutes, then put Borja Valero in the middle and maybe Wakaso Mubarak or Hernán Pérez on the wing. We need more than one midfielder going forward.
- Mario Gaspar looks over-matched at this level, at least as an every-day starter. He's young, sure, but I miss Ángel López (never thought I'd say that). Get well soon, señor.
- Joan Oriol impressed me, particularly going forward. Most of our play came from his flank. He deserves to start the return leg.
- Finally, on our central defenders and goalkeeper: not good enough. Zapata was beaten to a few headers, Mateo Musacchio was out of position, and Diego López was trying to be a field player. We must have a clean sheet on Tuesday, and it's up to those three to improve. And fast.
We will learn a lot about this team's character on Tuesday evening. Will Villarreal race out of the blocks, score an early goal, and put Odense on its heels? Or will the usual slow start and a fluky away goal doom our chances? Sevilla never recovered from losing at this stage last season to eventual Europa League runners-up Braga.
I have confidence that we can score 3 goals and go through comfortably, but the warning sirens are blaring. The Andreasen tally was conceded in awful circumstances, but I don't think we earned more than a 1-1 result in Odense.
Time for our stars up front to shine. Zapata's gaffe is the reason we are trailing after 90 minutes. However, it won't be the reason we lose the tie. That comes down to scoring goals.