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Villarreal CF--Viktoria Plzen PREVIEW

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Villarreal have attracted a lot of international attention in the past week due to their topping the La Liga table for the first time ever. But now, they need to keep the momentum going in the Europa League. A loss in their first group match makes this one a must-win for the Yellow Submarine at home.

Maria José Segovia

Before proceeding farther, here is the Villarreal squad for Thursday's match:

  • Keepers: Barbosa and Areola.
  • Defenders: Mario, Rukavina, Jokic, Jaume Costa, Eric Bailly, Víctor Ruiz and Adrián Marín.
  • Midfielders: Bruno, Jonathan dos Santos, Pina, Trigueros, Samuel García, Samu Castillejo and Nahuel.
  • Strikers: Soldado y Leo Baptistao.

Looks as though the Bonera experiment has died a quick death, so my guess is we might see Mario as a central defender again or something else to give one of the Ruiz-Bailly pair a break, since Iñiguez isn't included either.   Soldado and Baptistao are both healthy;  Denis Suarez has a slight muscle industry which is why he is not included.

Viktoria Plzen are pretty much an unknown quantity, though they easily won their first group match in Minsk.  Slovakian attacker Michal Duris has scored six times in seven league matches for them; other than that, their squad is mostly home-grown, with none of the players playing with teams outside the Czech Republic in the past.

They have a good record in the Europa League and knockout competitions generally, though; finished first in their 2012-13 Europa League group, which included Atletico Madrid, and finished third in their Champions League group the following year, defeating Shaktar Donetsk in the Europa League round of 32 before falling to Lyon.

Predicted Villarreal XI: Barbosa; Rukavina, Mario, Bailly, Jokic; Samu G, Trigueros, Bruno, Samu C; Nahuel and Soldado.

It's a sign of this year's team that I could be wrong about virtually all of those except Barbosa!

Villarreal vs Czech sides: we've never played a team from Pilsen; but we have 2 wins and a draw against Czech clubsoverall, the last match being in the 2007-08 Europa League against FK Mlada Boreslav.


Prediction: Did you realize Villarreal has lost three matches in a row in the Europa League?  Time to break that streak right now.  Keeping in mind we're playing a team I've never seen, from a league I know nothing about, Villarreal 2-0.