It’s time for Matchday 4 in the Europa League Group G. Villarreal, with coach Javi Calleja still under fire and probably needing to win on Sunday in the league to keep his job, take on Rapid Wien in Austria.
Rapid aren’t having a good season—they’re currently 7th in a 12 team league. Coach Dietmar Kühbauer probably isn’t on the hot seat, though, because he only took over last month. In Vila-real, Rapid were....dreadful. Actually, the first 25 minutes were scoreless only because Villarreal missed some great chances, but after the first goal, the floodgates opened.
Rapid are probably going to go to some sort of different system this time—their 3-4-2-1 was awfully porous, so maybe we’ll see a back four. As far as I know Rapid doesn’t have any injury or suspension issues.
The same can’t be said for Villarreal, who are without Jaume Costa due to his red card in the last match. There has been nothing as far as I know listing the traveling party, but Daniele Bonera gave the press conference with Calleja so is probably starting. And Samu Chukwueze has made the trip as well.
Trivia: Villarreal are unbeaten in their last nine away group stage matches in the EL; their last loss was (you guessed it) to Rapid Vienna, in September 2015.
Also, those of you with really long La Liga memories might remember that Rapid coach Kühbauer was, at one time, a Real Sociedad midfielder. He played against us once, a 1-1 draw at El Madrigal in October (where he was yellow carded).
Prediction: Surely Rapid cannot be as bad as they were at the Ceramica—surely! I am going to go for a 2-2 draw, for no particularly good reason other than it’s the Europa League on the road, the match will probably be wide open, and strange things happen.
Current standings: Villarreal 5, Rangers 5, Rapid 3, Spartak 2. No Group G team can qualify for the Round of 32 this matchday.
In the other group match, Rangers play away at Spartak Moscow. Spartak haven’t won at home since late September and their players were quoted recently as saying they’d rather play away from home because their fans are giving them so much grief. (They fired their coach in October, too).