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GameThread: Villarreal vs. Sevilla

The victors return to El Madrigal. Villarreal takes on Sevilla for the fourth time this season on Sunday afternoon at Estadio El Madrigal. Fifth place in La Liga could change hands with a home win, which would assuage the faithful after a 5-2 aggregate defeat to the defending Europa League champions in this edition’s round of 16.

Unai Emery: makes more with less better than anyone?
Unai Emery: makes more with less better than anyone?
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Enough of the nervionenses already. Villarreal has faced Sevilla three times this season: in each instance the Yellow Submarine has found a way to lose.

First came a league meeting at the Sánchez Pizjuán. Villarreal took a lead and held it until very late, but two goals near the death, including a silly penalty given away by Giovani dos Santos, doomed the boys in yellow.

Then the two remaining Spanish sides in the Europa League were drawn against each other in the round of 16. El Madrigal was the site of the first leg, and Villarreal thoroughly dominated the stat sheet. But it's goals that count, and Sevilla scored three times on just four chances to take a commanding lead to the return leg.

Cue Thursday evening's encounter at the Sánchez Pizjuán. Villarreal played a half-strength squad last weekend in Almería and could only sneak a point against the relegation-threatened Andalusians. So the best XI available to Marcelino García Toral took the pitch in the Europa League, but that was not enough on the night, let alone in the tie.

Unai Emery's dominance of Villarreal continues, and even he acknowledged as much in the Spanish press, noting that "we know how to play Villarreal". Begrudgingly this writer would admit as much, and when the yellows were last looking for a manager, Unai was at the top of my list. But we have another great one in Marcelino - how is he going to find a way past his former employer down south?

No Bruno Soriano and no Denis Cheryshev means that even more rides on Luciano Vietto's goals. Let's hope that the Argentine striker still has his focus on finishing out the season strongly; his agent is doing enough talking for both of them.

More importantly, the team needs to regain its league form and focus on finishing as high as possible in the table. Atlético Madrid marks fourth place and started the round seven points ahead of Villarreal - that means the colchoneros will have to drop points twice more than the Yellow Submarine even if they fall at El Madrigal. Valencia in third place provides another target, but our arch-rivals started the round eight points ahead and won convincingly at El Madrigal, so they'll hold the head-to-head tiebreak.

Win one for Allen! Endavant Villarreal.