Villarreal face a trip to Turkey, where we face Osmanlispor. Don’t look for Osman on the map—the team is based in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, and is named for Osman I, who as you all doubtless know, was the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
European history: Osmanlispor have a very short history in European competition. They competed in the 2005 Intertoto Cup, losing right away. They qualified for Europe this season, their first European appearance since then, in what has become a common fashion in Turkey: Galatasaray was excluded from European competition, so fifth-placed Osmanlispor got to play in the Europa League qualifying rounds.
They did themselves proud, defeating teams from Moldova, Estonia and Denmark (sorry, Jens!) to get here. Their home form has been superlative—ten goals scored, no goals allowed in four matches in the EL.
Like Villarreal, they are undefeated in their league, though they’ve won two and drawn five of their first seven matches, good enough for sixth place. Seven goals scored, five allowed suggests we shouldn’t expect much scoring in this one.
Their squad: Osmanlispor has the usual mix of home-grown players and imports. La Liga followers should remember Cameroon-born striker Pierre Webo, who played for Osasuna and Mallorca; unfortunately, he has been injured so is unlikely to feature.
The other player who Villarreal have faced before is defender Václav Procházka, who played for Viktoria Plzen against Villarreal (and was sent off for two yellow cards).
Osmanlispor’s best players are probably Senegal-born midfielder Papa N’Diaye, Malian striker Cheick Diabaté, and central midfielder Adam maher, on loan from PSV Eindhoven (he may have played against our U-23 team last season, I can’t find my team sheet from the final to check).
Villarreal’s goal: Three points would be nice, of course, but Osmanlispor is a team that will be tough to crack at home. The Turkish league is lower scoring compared to La Liga (2.3 goals per game to 3.05 so far this season). They defeated Steaua at home 2-0, but both goals came in the second half when Steaua were down to 10 men. Key for us will be to maintain composure.
Comments: If we can get the first goal, we should win this, or at least draw. As usual with the group stage, getting the right balance between resting your #1 guys and putting out a team that can win is key. The home side doesn’t really care about that, they’ll put out their best guys in a 4-2-3-1 and see what happens.
Prediction: I think the two best teams in the group are Villarreal and Zurich. Villarreal to win this by a goal, whether 0-1 or 1-2 I am not sure!