Villarreal take on Sparta Prague in a Europa League quarterfinal, with everyone expecting The Yellow Submarine to easily advance to the next round. Well, if Villarreal needed a warning, Wolfsburg's victory over Real Madrid showed that the match is decided on the field, not reputation or the bettors' books.
Still, the home side have to be feeling pretty good, after posting a draw against Barca and an away win against Eibar in the league. Sparta, meanwhile, fell to a 2-0 loss against a midtable team away. Looking ahead? Or resting important players? Maybe a bit of both, as roughly half their starting lineup did play.
Villarreal lose Antonio Rukavina through suspension, Bonera, J dos and Musacchio through injury. However, Jaume Costa is good to go. The squad is:
- Keepers: Asenjo and Areola.
- Defenders: Jaume Costa, Mario, Víctor Ruiz, Eric Bailly, Adrián Marín and Pablo Íñiguez.
- Midfielders: Pina, Bruno, Trigueros, Denis Suárez, Castillejo and Nahuel.
Strikers: Soldado, Bakambu, Leo Baptistao and Adrián López.
As ever in these matches, job #1 is to keep the opposition off the scoresheet, job #2 is to score multiple goals yourself. Sparta Prague have not lost in the competition yet, and they have scored three goals away from home in their last three matches in this competition. It's time for Villarreal to end all that. The Submarine is the best team Sparta has faced in the competition, but that doesn't mean a thing if the quality isn't shown on the field.
Prediction: Villarreal 2-0 Sparta Prague (Denis Suarez, Bakambu)