Villarreal head into tomorrow's match against FC Zurich knowing that a win would almost certainly guarantee qualification from this group. The Submarine have 7 points from 3 matches, Borussia Munchengladbach 5, while Apollon Limassol are on 3 and FC Zurich 1. The German side will be playing Limassol in Cyprus tomorrow.
Our opponents: When these two teams met in El Madrigal, Villarreal dominated things early, scoring quickly, but though dominant allowed a Zurich equalizer before halftime. The second half, though, was all Villarreal. In that match, we dominated midfield and were able to use our speed to continually pressure Zurich's three-man back line. I expect in this match we will concede more possession, and Zurich surely will create more chances from open play than they did last time (three).
Villarreal got caught last time on a quick free-kick maneuver, and will need to be alert for set pieces. Chikhaoui and Chermiti are the players to watch, and Gilles Yapi Yapo was good in midfield last time round. I can't be sure all of these players will miss out, but at the weekend Zurich were without the same players as missed the match in El Madrigal, so I would expect a similar lineup from them.
Zurich also come into this match on something of a downer, losing a home match against the bottom club Lucerne at the weekend, and drawing with St Gallen at home before that.
Villarreal: I hope the boys brought their long underwear, because temperatures are going to be only slightly above freezing, and there may be some cold rain as well. It's not going to feel like Spain, that's for sure, and that may be one of our biggest challenges.
On paper, we match up well with any side who plays a three-man back line due to our speed and our counterattacking style. If players like Espinosa, Vietto, and Gerard find themselves with as much room around the penalty area as they had last time, it's hard to expect anything but a Villarreal win. But, playing on the road in the Europa League is always a challenge.
Predicted lineup: Juan Carlos; Rukavina, Ruiz, Gabriel, Marín; Espinosa, Bruno, J dos Santos, Moi; Gerard and Vietto.
As last time except Cani is out so Moi comes in, I think. Pina and Bruno are our only players on yellow cards.
Trivia: Like Villarreal, FC Zurich has just opened a new club shop. I know, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel here....
My prediction: Zurich 1 Villarreal 2. Goals from Espinosa and Gerard.