Three rounds of La Liga, and all three results to show for it. Now it's a highly-anticipated return to Europe in the economic and geographic (according to the Spanish press) center of the continent. And it won't be easy.
The hosts. Gladbach has the quality to hurt Villarreal. Much like the Yellow Submarine, play originates from the center of the park with World Champion Christoph Kramer and Swiss international Granit Xhaka. Should be a good tussle with Bruno Soriano and whoever accompanies him in the doble pivote. The Foals' winger and striker play is solid but perhaps a touch inconsistent, much like that of its opponents in yellow. Yann Sommer in goal commands a stable back four, and the team plays as a unit. It won't be easy.
The visitors. Who will play at left back? Either center back Gabriel Paulista or right back Antonio Rukavina, a more seasoned Serbian international. At least Cani and Denis Cheryshev are rested after only cameos in Granada. Mateo Musacchio and Víctor Ruiz need to spearhead a complete defensive performance to get a result in Germany. And Ikechukwu Uche returns to provide the spark up front, though Luciano Vietto did net a brace in the Europa League qualifier return leg. Astana is not Gladbach though.
My expected Villarreal XI: Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, Ruiz, Rukavina; Pina, Bruno; Cani, Cheryshev; Vietto, Uche.
My expected Villarreal bench: J. Carlos; Gabriel; Espinosa, J. dos Santos, Manu, Moi; Gerard.
Prediction. 2-1. If set pieces are not our undoing, we could get a point or even more. But Giovani dos Santos is the catalyst for this team, so unless we see a special Cheryshev, it will be tough sledding offensively for the boys in yellow.
The match begins at 1:05 pm Eastern Time and airs on ESPN Deportes. Allen will have the play-by-play. Endavant Villarreal!