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Villarreal—Sevilla PREVIEW

We face one of our bogey teams in recent years.

FC Sevilla v Villarreal CF - UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Sevilla play Villarreal at the Ceramica Stadium on Sunday; the visitors are currently one point ahead of us after 12 matches.

Sevilla: Any discussion of Sevilla has to begin with the events of the past week—coach Eduardo Berizzo was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the team fought back from a 3-0 deficit to draw with Liverpool in the Champions League. Will they have more in the emotional tank on Sunday?

Sevilla have been on something of an emotional roller coaster anyway over the last year or two. The arrival of Jorge Sampaoli heralded an exciting period of attacking football, but by March, things had soured, and a run of one win our of seven in the league ended any ambitions of challenging the top three.

This season, Sevilla have done okay—they have done a good job of not dropping points in matches against inferior sides—but they’ve lost to three of the four teams ahead of them in the table. There was a lot of transfer movement in the offseason—€20m in net profit—but the excitement doesn’t seem to be there. A team that can compete for a Champions League place again? Probably. A team that can compete for the top? No.

Sevilla has a lot of experience especially in midfield (N’Zonzi, Krohn-Delhi, Banega) and talent upfront (Muriel, Ben Yedder, Nolito), but with guys like Iborra, Jovetić and Vitolo gone, it’s just not as talented a squad as it was, and Berizzo has not had much success with his side away from home (four straight away losses).

Villarreal: One big question for Villarreal is how much their midweek nine-hour flight to Astana and back will take out of them. Certainly the team’s form is good—an away win in the EL, an away draw which was nearly a win in San Mamés, and three straight home wins. Alvaro should return to action after injury, but we still are waiting for Roberto Soriano to get untracked in midfield in the absence of Samu Castillejo.

This looks to be a match where Villarreal ought to get chances to score—it’s up to our strikers, especially, to take them.

All-time record: At home, in the league, middling (5-6-4). Our last win was in October 2015, 2-1 with goals from Mario Gaspar and Cedric Bakambu.

Trivia: Aitor Cantalapiedra made his Primera debut last season for Villarreal in this fixture, coming on in the 87th minute for Nicola Sansone. He didn’t appear again in the league, and he’s now playing for Sevilla’s B team in the Segunda,

Prediction: Overall, this has to be one of the more winnable matchups against Sevilla we’ve had in awhile. If not for our long EL jaunt I’d be confident of the three points; as it is, I’m confident enough I think. Villarreal 2-1 Sevilla.