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Viktoria Plzen--Villarreal CF PREVIEW

Villarreal will play in sub-freezing temperatures on Thursday, needing a win to finish first in this Europa League group.

The Champions League group phase is ending, and with teams like Sevilla and Manchester United falling into the Europa League round of 32, it would be great if Villarreal could finish first in their group and avoid being drawn against one of the top 16 teams (the 12 first-place finishers, plus the top four of the eight that come in from the CL based on their UEFA coefficients).

Villarreal have two problems.  The first is Rapid Wien, who host Dinamo Minsk in their last match of the group phase.  Minsk are pretty awful (we defeated them 4-0 at El Madrigal) and it could be the Vienna side will put a bunch past the Belarus side.

The second is Viktoria Plzen, who for all their poor results in this competition played us pretty close at El Madrigal (1-0) and only lost to Rapid 1-2 at home.  However, will their players and fans be motivated for this dead rubber?  At present they are leading the Czech league and are in the final eight of the Czech cup, so it could be they will rest some players and might not be too concerned about this result.  One never knows about these last group matches.

Villarreal have lots of midfielders available for this match, not so many strikers and defenders, and a match with Real Madrid (who defeated Malmo 8-0 in a laugher in the Bernabeu today) on Saturday.  So, what team do we put out?

My guess is we play Adrian Marín, Ruiz, Bailly and Rukavina if he can go, Miguelon if he can't, saving Musacchio and Jokic for Saturday; Samu Garcia as a second striker with Soldado, saving Bakambu in case we need him late; and in midfield, we go with Pina and Trigueros, Nahuel and Samu C, saving Suarez, Bruno, and Jona for Saturday.  But hey, what do I know?

Tiebreakers: EDIT: I have been corrrected, we only need win. Because of our away goal in Vienna, we win the tiebreak regardless of goal difference.

Prediction: It's going to be a cold night in Plzen, as cold as their famous beer.....and I hope the good Villarreal supporters making the trip will find time to drain a few.

I think our extra motivation will be enough to give us a win, 2-1.  Minsk will lose 3-0, and we will finish first :)