Do we know much of anything yet about what to expect when Villarreal takes on Spartak Moscow on Thursday? Well, not really.
About the best we can say is that typically we have a lot of rotations in the Europa League anyway, so probably—probably—we’ll see Andres Fernandez in goal, Funes Mori and Ruiz (if not Bonera) in the center of defense. And probably Bacca and Toko Ekambi up top in some way.
But given that even under Calleja, we played with five different formations in our five EL matches so far, who knows what to expect. We went with a 4-4-1-1 against Spartak in Moscow and a 4-2-3-1 against hapless Rapid Wien in Vila-real. (It will always be one of the curiosities of this year under Calleja that we could win 5-0 in the Europa League, 8-0 in the Copa del Rey, and yet when the time came to make a change everyone agreed it was time.)
Another curiosity is that Steven Gerrard, appointed to lead Rangers in the summer, is the only one of the four coaches in Group G who coached the first matchday who is still here. Rapid replaced their coach October 1st; Spartak replaced their coach in late October, and Villarreal has now followed suit.
The scenarios are pretty simple:
If Villarreal win, they finish first in the group.
If Villarreal draw, they finish second in the group UNLESS Rapid and Rangers also draw, in which case Villarreal finish first, Rapid second.
If Villarreal lose, they are out.
As far as Rangers and Rapid are concerned, Rangers must win to qualify. Draw or lose, and they are out.
Trivia: Manuel Pellegrini’s first competitive match in charge of Villarreal was an Intertoto Cup match at home against Spartak Moscow. A Sonny Anderson goal gave us a 1-0 win.