Villarreal host Rapid Vienna in a Europa League group match at the Cerámica tomorrow, knowing that a victory would be very helpful in what appears to be a wide-open group. (Steven Gerrard’s Rangers host Spartak Moscow in the other match).
Villarreal will be without Carlos Bacca and Victor Ruiz, as well as long-term absences Bruno Soriano and Javi Fuego, while Manuel Iturra is ineligible for Europa League competition.
Nicola Sansone will be in the side, then, so too Manu Morlanes, and we could see Funes Mori at either CB or defensive midfield depending on whether Santy Caceres starts or not. (i.e. whether plans are to start him on Sunday instead).
The opposition: Rapid Wien defeated Spartak 2-0 in the first round but lost 3-1 at Rangers in the second. Like Villarreal, they are struggling in their domestic competition, currently ninth in a twelve-team league.
Rapid generally play in either a 4-2-3-1 or, against Rangers, they tried a 4-1-4-1.
Stefan Schwab is a useful player in midfield (and captains the side), while Deni Alar leads them in goals so far with three.
These teams met in the 2015-16 group stage, Villarreal winning 1-0 at home through Bruno Soriano and losing 2-1 in Vienna. Both teams’ rosters have turned over a lot since then, and I can’t say as either coach necessarily fielded their strongest lineup—certainly Marcelino didn’t.
Villarreal lineup: Something like Barbosa; Llambrich, Bonera, Alvaro, Pedraza; Funes Mori, Trigueros; Sansone, Fornals, Santi Cazorla; Ekambi?
That is just a guess, but it makes sense if we go to a 4-2-3-1 that Ekambi would be the lone striker. Alternatively, if we go 4-4-2, Gerard and Sansone perhaps, Ekambi dropping to the bench.
Prediction: Two teams that are struggling in their respective leagues, each with less than a goal per match. Tough to pick, but surely we’re going to win at home one of these days? Villarreal 2-1 Rapid.