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Villarreal-Spartak Moscow PREVIEW: Europa League Group G

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Luis Garcia Plaza’s first match as Villarreal coach.

Villarreal hosts Spartak Moscow in a make-or-break Europa League Group G matchup at the Ceramica. Win or draw, and the Yellow Submarine is in the round of 32; lose, and for the first time ever, we don’t progress from the group stage.

This match has been classified as ‘high-risk’, as there are 1500 Russian fans planning to support their club. They’ll be up in the away end behind glass, and hopefully there won’t be any problems.

Spartak are currently fourth in their domestic league, which is a very competitive one. How far they’ll go there, and how well they’ll do tomorrow, probably depends a lot on Zé Luis and Luiz Adriano, their two strikers. Hanni and Molgarejo (left wing and left back, respectively) are both good, but the rest of this team is quite average.

In the Europa League they’ve scored a bunch at home (4-3 over Rangers, 3-3 with Villarreal) but haven’t scored a goal away from home so far. How they lost to Rapid Vienna at home 2-1 is a mystery—two late goals from the visitors earned them the points—but what it means is that Spartak have to go all out to win, which should leave plenty of openings for Villarreal to attack.

Villarreal have had a busy week, with Luis Garcia Plaza replacing Javi Calleja as coach on Monday. The new mister has been coy about his team selection, commenting only that he’ll pick the players he think are most likely to succeed. Pablo Fornals appeared with him before the press today, so that’s probably an indication he will start.

Probably Spartak goes with a 4-4-2; I expect Villarreal might go with some sort of 4-2-3-1, but we’ll have to see. I’m expecting Fornals as a second striker behind someone (Bacca? Ekambi? Gerard?).

Prediction: Villarreal 3-1 Spartak. I think the visitors will leave themselves open to attack and I expect to see us exploit that.