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Villarreal-Rapid Vienna: Europa League PREVIEW

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First place in Group E is at stake as Villarreal host Rapid Vienna. We gave away three points to these guys in Austria; we need to win this one now.

The official team photo is out today, as well as the squad for Rapid Vienna
The official team photo is out today, as well as the squad for Rapid Vienna
Villarreal CF

Situation in Group E:   Rapid Vienna 12 pts, +4 goal difference; Villarreal 9 pts, +5; Viktoria Plzen 3 pts, -1; Dinamo Minsk, 0 pts, -8.

Matches in 5th round: Villarreal-Rapid Vienna in El Madrigal; Dinamo Minsk host Viktoria Plzen

Matches in 6th round: Rapid host Minsk; VIktoria Plzen host Villarreal.

Rapid Vienna are bringing 1700 fans to El Madrigal as they look to pick up a victory to finish first in the group, and to be honest, given they host the worst team in the group in the final round, even a point for the Rapid side would almost certainly be enough.

Villarreal need to win this match and then win in Pilsen to have any realistic chance of finishing first.  That's important because when the Round of 32 matches are drawn, the group winners are seeded in the top half, the second place finishers in the bottom half.

Villarreal's problems of late have been a lack of goal-scoring; the match against Eibar featured a number of great opportunities, but only one goal, and with the injuries to our centerbacks (it seems this happens every year, doesn't it?),  our defense hasn't been putting up many zeroes.

Rapid Vienna come into this match on the back of some lackluster form; they have lost three of their last five matches in the Austrian league, but have done well in the Europa.  Villarreal have been struggling of late, and injuries have been a real problem.  Leo Baptistao, who scored our goal in the 2-1 loss to Rapid in Austria, is out; so too is Adrian Lopez, who partnered him that day, while Daniele Bonera and Eric Bailly will both miss this match as well--Bailly is still recovering from a concussion so we need to be careful with him, while Bonera has a muscle injury.

Against Eibar, Villarreal created some chances, which was a good sign; if Soldado and/or Bakambu had been able to put home their chances, we would have celebrated a comfortable win.  But the Basques had their chances too, and so shoring up the defense has to be a concern for Marcelino.  Mateo Musacchio has been medically cleared to return to action but is still getting mentally and physically game fit, and wasn't included in the list, so probably we'll see Antonio Rukavina playing at right back and Mario Gaspar moved to the middle to partner Victor Ruiz.  Roberto Soldado and Jaume Costa will both start I'd think, as they are suspended for the Sunday kickoff at Getafe.

Villarreal's squad is:

  • Keepers: Barbosa and Areola.
  • Defenders: Mario, Rukavina, Jaume Costa, Víctor Ruiz, Jokic and Pablo Íñiguez.
  • Midfielders: Bruno, Jonathan dos Santos, Pina, Trigueros, Samuel García, Samu Castillejo, Denis Suárez and Nahuel.
  • Strikers: Soldado y Bakambu.

Prediction: Villarreal 3-1 Rapid Vienna. Time to rediscover the Madrigal Magic!!