Weather: Expected to be cool (mid 40's Fahrenheit) but dry on Thursday evening in Zurich. Could definitely be worse.
Our opposition: FC Zurich are currently playing in (and easily leading) the Swiss Second Division. They were relegated last season but qualified for the EL by winning the Swiss cup competition. Several of the players who were part of the team that defeated us at the same stadium in November 2014 (3-2, with all the goals coming in a 10-minute span of the first half) are still with them. Of course, we defeated that Zurich side 4-1 in El Madrigal, too.
it's hard to get a handle on their current quality. They did defeat Osmanlispor at home, but were only able to draw at home with Steaua Bucharest. In El Madrigal, we gifted them a goal in the second minute, but we went up 2-1 by halftime and that's how it ended. And that was with our squad containing a lot of players who don't see much action in La Liga.
They will line up in a 4-1-4-1, I would think, and the only other thing we should know for sure is they will be called for a lot of fouls. They have averaged 22 in their first four EL matches--not so much dirty play as facing players who are more skilled than they're used to seeing on an everyday basis. Overall, they are not as good as the Zurich side we faced a couple of years ago, so you'd have to think they need to step their game up to win this one and/or hope Villarreal don't play well.
Villarreal: And, so far in this competition, we HAVEN'T played well. We've gifted the opposition goals galore and have struggled to dominate matches against what are, on paper, inferior teams. Now some of that comes down to team selection, admittedly. Andrés Fernandez has been awful in goal, and if he starts this match, Escribá is going to have some explaining to do. Alfred N'Diaye, whose blunder led to the Zurich goal in our first encounter, didn't make the trip.
Villarreal's traveling party consists of 20 players--one of the three keepers will be discarded, so one outfield player will be dropped. (Alvaro Gonzalez, Roberto Soriano and N'Diaye are the three players who didn't make the trip).
Lineup I'd like to see (4-4-2): Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, Ruiz, Jaume Costa; J dos, Trigueros, Bruno, Cheryshev; Sansone and Bakambu.
Lineup I am afraid we will see (4-2-3-1): Andrés; Rukavina, Musacchio, Ruiz, José Angel; Rodri, Bruno; Samu C, J dos, Chery; Pato.
Prediction: Since I don't know how we'll play this, and I have no idea what sort of confidence level we have right now, I'm going to wimp out and say a 1-1 draw. But it could be 2 or even 3-1 to Villarreal, or 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 to Zurich. How's that for a prediction?
And it's not just me....after writing this I took a look at a graphic Joel Turner (https://www.kickoff.co.uk) sent me, and here it is:
So a 1-1 draw is their top choice (12%), followed by 1-0 Villarreal win (11%). I suppose if I had to quantify, I'd say about 20% chance of a home win, a 40% chance of a draw, and a 40% chance of an away win. Not much different than theirs.
A reminder that beinSport doesn't have the Europa League rights in the US, Fox does, and they are showing Sparta Prague versus Southampton instead. It's understandable I suppose since the Europa League group stage is such an unknown quantity, but it's disappointing. Oh well. Javi Mata on the radio is always fun.