Villarreal travel to Switzerland to take on Zurich in a match that will likely decide our Europa League future this season. Villarreal and Zurich are tied on five points, behind Osmanlispor with seven. Steaua Bucuresti bring up the rear with three points.
Why do I say it’s a must-win match for us when we are ahead of Zurich right now (both have zero goal difference, Villarreal have scored two more goals)? Here are my thoughts:
(1) A Villarreal loss does us in. We’d be in third place going into the last round and the top two would be playing each other. Even if Steaua win tomorrow, and even if Villarreal win their last match against Steaua, chances are Osmanlispor and Zurich play to a draw and we are third on goal difference. And if Osmanlispor get a result tomorrow and we lose, we’re three points behind two teams with one match left. No real chance.
(2) A Villarreal draw keeps us hanging, and depending on the result in the other match, could be great, or could be terrible.
If Osmanlispor win in Romania, they’ll automatically have qualified in first place, so have nothing to play for in the last match. So then we have to defeat Steaua by more than Zurich defeats an uninterested Osmanlispor in order to finish second. That doesn’t sound too good.
A Steaua-Osmanlispor draw and a Villarreal-Zurich draw would be a good outcome—we would go into the final round where we are now, with our final match at home against the weakest team in the group, and both Osmanlispor and Zurich would have all to play for in their last leg too.
A Steaua win and Villarreal-Zurich draw would leave Osmanlispor on seven points, everyone else on six. Not terrible from our point of view, I suppose, but Steaua would certainly be more motivated in El Madrigal in December.
(3) A Villarreal win gives us breathing room.
If Osmanlispor and Villarreal both win, then it’s 10 points-8 (us)-5-3 going into the last round, with the 10 and 8 hosting the 5 and 3. A draw would put us through for sure, a win and we might even end up as group winners.
A Steaua win and Villarreal win: Villarreal would go top of the group on 8 points, then Osmanlispor 7, Steaua 6, and Zurich fall to the bottom on 5. Again, a draw at home would be enough to see us through, regardless of the result in the other match, and a win would assure we finish first.
A draw in the other match and a Villarreal win: Villarreal 8, Osmanlispor 8, Zurich 6, Steaua 4. Osmanlispor would have a goal difference of +2, our goal difference would be +1 (if we win by a goal), Zurich’s -1 assuming the same. We’d then be playing an already eliminated Steaua in our last match; with a win at home we might finish first, with a draw, we would qualify but could be first or second.
Preview to come later today.