I honestly can’t introduce our opponent any better than Raul (Alayrach) did in this piece. If you want to know the history, tactics, strengths, weaknesses, or even controversies surrounding our opponent, start there. With all due respect to our opponents, this tie is all about us. If we show up and play the way we are capable of playing for two legs, we’ll advance.
Villarreal has won every single match they’ve played in this competition this season with the exception of a 1-1 draw with Maccabi back near Thanksgiving. The squad is as healthy as it has been in a long time, and Gerard Moreno has scored or assisted in every single appearance he’s made in 2021 save one.
The only time we’ve faced Zagreb before in this competition was in 2010-2011, in the group stages, where each side won their home fixture, making us the only Spanish side they’ve won a match against in their history in European play (14 matches).
Obviously, I want to win tomorrow, but a high scoring draw would suit us just fine. Zagreb has won their last four home matches in this competition so it will be a tough trip to win on, and bagging away goals will long term be the most important aspect. I’d rather tie 3-3 than win 0-1 on the road, I think, given the way ties are broken.
Carlos Bacca has been heavily leaned on in recent weeks as Emery has gone back to the two striker formations of early this year. Both he and Paco have excellent scoring records in the UEL this year though so I am interested to see how Unai handles it.
If we take care of business tomorrow, it’ll be a pleasant few days preparing for Osasuna on Sunday. We’re definitely in the business end of the season now. Endavant!