Villarreal play at Olympique Lyonnais tomorrow in the first leg of their Europa League Round of 32 tie.
Our opponents: Olympique Lyonnais qualified for the Europa League courtesy of a fourth-place finish in the French league, and finished second with three wins, two draws and a loss (to Atalanta) in the group round, finishing second.
This year they’re in a comfortable fourth in Ligue Un again, four points out of third but ten ahead of fifth.
Key players: Anthony Lopes (keeper) is a pair of calm hands at the back; Mariano Diaz, who Lyon bought for €8m from Madrid (looks like a bargain, wished we had done that!)—14 goals in the league, one in EL; Nabil Fekir, 16 goals in league, 2 in EL; Memphis Depay, 9 goals in league, 2 in EL.
This is a young roster—none of their midfielders or strikers are older than 25. Generally Villarreal can count on strength in midfield to make up for a lack of firepower—that’s not true in this case. The saving grace could be that Lyon are pretty fragile at the back and give up more than a goal a game in the league.
The other saving grace might be that Lyon are struggling a bit domestically just as we are.
Prediction: I don’t have a good feeling about this one, maybe because lately I’ve been overoptimistic! I do believe we’ll get an away goal, but whether we can keep it close enough for that to matter, I’m not sure. 3-1 Lyon.