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Looking ahead to Napoli's visit on Thursday....

European knockout-round nights at El Madrigal are always special. But they do pose some crowd management problems for a club not used to dealing with them every week.

Remember who?  Yep, he played against Napoli when we last met.....
Remember who? Yep, he played against Napoli when we last met.....
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Anticipation is beginning to mount in Vila-real for the visit of Napoli in the Europa League this Thursday.  It's a tough draw for Villarreal, but Bruno Soriano says while we respect Napoli, we don't consider ourselves second best.  Our visitors are currently second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus, and lead their league in goals scored (averaging two per match), and are second to Juve in fewest goals allowed.

This match has been characterized as a "high-risk" match by the security folks; remember that the last two times Napoli have visited El Madrigal, there have been incidents.  When we played in the Europa League in February 2011, Napoli fans sitting near the touchline along one of the sides of the pitch were precipitated onto the pitch when Marek Hamsik scored, slid on the grass to celebrate, and the surge of fans forward led to a minor wall collapse.

In December 2011 Napoli fans celebrated goals by lighting flares in the stands, and Villarreal were subsequently fined a small amount of money for failing to control that sort of thing.  So I expect this time, the security to enter El Madrigal will be much tighter, and presumably the visiting fans will be restricted to the area behind the goal (the 'bird cage' with the plexiglas windows so nothing can be thrown onto the pitch, or the fans below, from there).

As for attendance, we can certainly expect a good crowd.  The group-round matches had an average attendance of about 14,500, well below the nearly 18,000 average attendance in La Liga.  (Our highest attendance so far was for Real Madrid's visit, 20,477; Atleti and Athletic Club also brought in over 19,000).  Villarreal supporters who have missed three or less of our first ten home matches in the league can attend this match for free; others can attend the match for between 10 and 20 euros.