Villarreal comes into this match with a 3-2 deficit from the away leg, which leaves this match finely poised. 1-0 sends us through, 0-0 or 1-1 sends Bilbao through, so expect the visitors to try and defend that slender lead as long as they can.
The big question for Villarreal--for both sides, really--is what lineup they'll put out there and how seriously they will prioritize this match. Villarreal's President Roig has already said our main goal this season (after survival in the First Division, of course) is qualifying for Europe, hopefully the Champions League. Athletic Club are eighth in the league, two points out of sixth, and like Villarreal have a tough (though more winnable) tie in the Europa League in February.
So is winning this match something of a poisoned chalice? Hard to say, especially since the teams aren't bracketed so the winner of this goes into a blind draw for the quarterfinals. I do expect Bilbao to try to defend their lead and put out a competitive squad, I expect Villarreal to come out with a more experienced squad than in the first leg, and if we get a two-goal lead again like we did in the away leg, we'll have more experience on the pitch to see us through.
The squads: Athletic Club's call is Iraizoz, Bóveda, Laporte, Eraso, San José, Beñat, Iturraspe, De Marcos, Iago Herrerín, Susaeta, Williams, X.Etxeita, Mikel Rico, Gurpegi, Muniain, Aduriz, Viguera, Balenziaga, Sabin Merino, I.Lekue.
The big loss is Raúl García, who is injured.
- Keepers: Barbosa y Areola.
- Defenders: Rukavina, Bailly, Musacchio, Pablo Íñiguez y Adrián Marín.
- Midfielders: Pina, Bruno, Jonathan dos Santos, Nahuel, Denis Suárez, Samu Castillejo, Samu García y Rodri.
- Strikers: Soldado, Leo Baptistao y Bakambu.
Mario Gaspar is suspended, Jaume Costa is still injured, and Victor Ruiz is not included in the squad, so Rukavina-Bailly-Musacchio-Marin look to be the back four. I personally think we go with the Samu C, Bruno, Pina and Denis Suarez, as Manu Trigueros isn't included in the squad either (I know he had a bit of a niggle, but no injury report). Baptistao and Soldado probably the front two; Barbosa in goal.
Prediction: Is Aduriz in the squad? Yes, he is. So we need two goals to advance, since he always scores against us! I will say we will do so, 2-1. If we don't, well.....roll on Betis on Sunday. Endavant Villarreal!!!