Villarreal take on Sevilla in the Cerámica on Sunday. Both teams are coming off away wins in the Europa League—Sevilla 1-0 over Lazio, and Villarreal 1-0 over Sporting Lisbon. (There’s a pretty good tactical discussion of our win here).
But while that was nice, Villarreal need wins in the league. Sevilla’s challenge for the top three in La Liga has fallen short in recent weeks as Real Madrid have gone on a tear, so they’re playing for fourth place at this point.
Our opponents: Pablo Machin’s 3-5-2, and variations on this, has brought a good balance to this Sevilla’s team: they’re third in the league in goals scored and fifth in goals allowed. Wissam Ben Yedder (11), Andre Silva (9), and Pablo Sarabia (8) have been the key goal scorers; Daniel Carrico, Simon Kjær, and Sergio Escudero anchor the defense in front of Tomas Vaclik, who joined this season from Basel.
Jesus Navas runs as he does down the wing; a key creative midfielder is Ever Banega, but he’ll be missing after being red-carded against Eibar.
Villarreal: It seems pretty certain we’ll set up in some sort of 3-5-2 variant ourselves, with Gerard Moreno and Toko Ekambi as the strikers and Santi Cazorla somewhere in midfield. Beyond that, it’s hard to know; Miguelon didn’t travel in midweek so he may be preferred on the right of midfield, Pedraza played 90 minutes so maybe Jaume Costa starts instead of him, though I think we may need Pedraza’s physicality there.
All-time record: Well, not that good. We’re 5-6-5 at home, but most of those wins came in the 2000-2010 period; we did win 2-1 in October 2015 with goals from Mario and Bakambu. Last time these two teams met in Vila-real, we went 2-0 up but surrendered two goals in a minute; then Victor Ruiz got sent off and Banega converted a penalty for a 3-2 win.
One thing to watch out for: Sevilla are good at scoring late goals, and have scored a number of them against us. (We got ahead of them 2-0 in Sevilla last year before they came back, too). And since they’re coming off a match vs. Eibar where they were down to ten men but still scored twice in the last two minutes plus injury time to earn a 2-2 draw, I hope if Villarreal get ahead we can hold the lead better than we have against everyone else this season.
Connections: A number of players in recent years have played for both teams; Carlos Bacca and Vicente Iborra are on our roster now but enjoyed productive spells for Sevilla. Denis Suarez and Miguel Layun are others that come to mind, no longer with us. All of those players played for the red and whites first, then us. Two goalkeepers—Diego Lopez, and Andrés Palop—went the other way, joining Sevilla after success with the Submarine in the nets, but I can’t think of any field players doing it off the top of my head.
Prediction: I think a lot depends on how much Sevilla misses Banega. We don’t match up well with them—they are good at creating scoring chances down the wings, they finish chances well, and are tough to come back on if they get ahead. I’ll be happy with a 1-1 draw, in all honesty, because I think if one of the two teams is going to score a second goal, it probably won’t be us.
Still, as Alfonso Pedraza said, we need to win our home games, so this would be a good place to start. Endavant Villarreal!!