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Villarreal vs Manchester United: Champions League Preview

Unai Emery’s side look for a crucial result in Europe as they face Cristiano Ronaldo and company.


I’m tired of calling all our results crucial but it can’t be helped because that’s just where we are right now. Manchester United is crucial Tuesday, Barcelona is crucial Saturday, with two wins we could turn around the whole trajectory of our season.

Here’s the state of our group. If we draw Manchester United and Atalanta win, we’ll both have 8 points. Going into the final matchweek, assuming United beats Young Boys (which, I know they’ve already dropped that once, but still they will be favored) they would then have 10 points. A draw against Atalanta would then leave us both with 9 points, going to the tiebreakers of goal difference, then total goals scored. We presently have a one goal advantage over Atalanta in goal difference which will be erased or worse if they beat Young Boys. We’ve scored two more goals than them. If Atalanta are to win we need it to only be by one goal.

If we beat Manchester United, though, then we go to ten points and a draw against Atalanta sends us through no matter what else happens in the group. If we lose to them, then we pretty much have to beat Atalanta.

Our opponents

Manchester United, as anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to world football knows, just fired Ole Gunnar Solskjær (meaning that’s the last time I have to google how to spell his last name). Michael Carrick took over as interim, because what else do you do but bring in a former player to replace the former player who didn’t work out? They are in a flux as a club, and just lost to Watford 4-1.

Their two matches after us are against Chelsea and Arsenal, who are both ahead of them in the table at present, and it is conceivable that they could be in the lower half of the table if they lose both those matches. It’s very possible that the Champions League is not a very large priority for them at the moment, and I am fascinated to see how they plays into their team selection.

Cristiano Ronaldo is definitely going to play in the Champions League regardless, though, and that man is inevitable in this competition.


The rumor has been that a lot of the guys we’ve been waiting on will be available for this one. In any case I expect Unai to put forward a much better lineup than what we saw against Celta, as that looked like a rotation scheme. If we make CL knockouts, would that make up for us not qualifying for Europe next year in the eyes of fans?

For me, the answer is no. I’d rather focus on the league and not worry about the Champions League.


Unai’s gonna put out two banks of four and this is gonna be 1-1.