We are missing some key men, particularly Carlos Bacca who has been lights out in the Europa League, but injuries and COVID19 have forced our opponents to just 15 men for today’s match, so there are no excuses.
Iborra and Coquelin provide the shield for a backline of Funes Mori, Foyth, Ruben Pena, and Jaume Costa, and I expect to see in practice a top four with Alex Baena, Fer Nino, Take Kubo, and Samu Chukwueze. Samu and Kubo in particular MUST do better than what we’ve seen from them recently if we are going to wrap things up in the group today.
This is also a huge chance for Fer Nino. Carlos Bacca is one of the very highest earners in Villarreal’s roster and the club would certainly like to move off of those wages, but they cannot afford to do so if that third striker position cannot be filled, particularly given the fact that ideally both Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer start. If the young Spaniard can show he is capable of stepping up and filling that role in cup competition both domestically and abroad, that could open up financial flexibility for the club as a whole.
We are off to a great start so far in the Europa League, a draw today would ensure we progress and a win would assure that we win the group. Given the fact that Champions League third place sides drop into the knockout stages of this competition, winning the group and giving ourselves the best possible chance at a good draw in the knockouts is essential. Endavant!