A big Europa League match for Villarreal as they take on Borussia Munchengladbach in El Madrigal. The visitors will be the fifth Bundesliga club to play here: the others were Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich (first in the Intertoto Cup, Bayern in Champions League, others in Europa League).
The visitors: Gladbach have some injury issues: Fabian Johnson, Christoph Kramer and Martin Stranzl aren't available for them.
"The defeat against Frankfurt is behind us. Our full concentration is now set on the Europa League," explained Granit Xhaka. "A technically strong opponent awaits us and our defence has to be organised and compact. We know that a victory would see us qualify for the knockout stages and that’s our mindset during this trip to Spain."
Gladbach have had some problems of late, losing their last two Bundesliga matches (to Dortmund and Frankfurt, the latter their first loss at home in awhile). Expect them to go with their usual 4-4-2, but with two regular back line men out, and Kramer missing in midfield, I'd expect them to be happy to concede some possession to us and concentrate on keeping a good defensive shape.
Granit Xhaka, Alvaro Dominguez, and Max Kruse are likely to be key players, for different reasons: Xhaka the playmaker, Alvard the defensive marshal, and Kruse the finisher.
There are expected to be around 3000 German supporters at the match on Thursday, and the Villarreal bars have laid on extra staff and ordered extra beer in anticipation. Apparently the thrifty Swiss stayed in Castellón and Valencia and only showed up an hour or so before the Villarreal-Zurich match; bar owners are hoping (and expecting) the Germans come earlier and hang out in the town before heading over to the stadium.
Villarreal: The Yellow Submarine have some injury worries too; Bruno Soriano looks to be OK, as does Manu Trigueros and Cani, but there are doubts for Moi Gomez, who has picked up a niggle, and Gio dos Santos isn't going to make it. And then Marcelino typically wants to make some rotations anyway.
The team call is:
- Keepers: Asenjo and Juan Carlos.
- Defenders: Mario, Rukavina, Jaume Costa, Víctor Ruiz, Dorado and Gabriel.
- Midfielders: Bruno, Jonathan dos Santos, Pina, Trigueros, Espinosa, Cheryshev and Cani.
- Strikers: Uche, Gerard and Vietto.
Surprise to me is Adrian Marín not being drafted in, but we do have more healthy defenders now, though he's played very well for us in the Europa League.
My predicted XI: Juan Carlos; Mario, Gabriel, Ruiz, Jaume Costa; Espinosa, Bruno, Manu Trigueros, Cani; Vietto and Gerard.
Predicted score? How about 2-1 Villarreal with goals from Trigueros and Gerard.