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Villarreal vs Maccabi Tel Aviv: Europa League Gamethread

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Dani Parejo returns from injury for Unai Emery’s side in a crucial Europa League match.

Villarreal CF v Valencia CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

I rather stupidly said before the group stage began that I thought Maccabi Tel Aviv was the worst team in our group. That’s my bad. They’ve won both of their first two matches and now we face them for first place in the group halfway through the stage. If the score holds as is from the time I’m typing, Sivasspor will see off Qarabag to get to three points, meaning that if we lose this match we’ll only be three points clear of elimination halfway through the round. We need to play better than we have so far in this competition to get this job done.

Lineups

While I’m absolutely ecstatic to get Parejo back, I kind of wish Iborra were not starting this game. I don’t think either midfielder will play the whole 90 minutes today and I would like to have at least one of them on the pitch at all times. It’s no surprise to see Kubo back in the lineup, while Funes Mori and Albiol will be the CB partnership. I think we’ll have another game of guess the formation, as depending on what Kubo does exactly we may be in any number of alignments. My guess off hand is a 4231.

The trouble is, Kubo doesn’t stay in one place, ever. He wanders and follows the ball, which causes his teammates to have to react to him. This not only makes it hard to tell what the formation is, but it also affects our defensive stability. I suspect this will at times look like a 4411, maybe a 433 on occasion, and that Kubo’s heatmap will be a mess as usual. I’m excited, though, to see what Alex and Yeremi bring.

It’s worth noting that the pitch at La Ceramic is an absolute mess right now:

Here is Tel Aviv’s lineup:

Thoughts? Predictions?