This time of year, it’s always good to have more to play for than your opponent. That’s the case between us and Sevilla, who has secured top four but is really only looking at the possible difference in tv money of finishing 3rd versus finishing 4th to play for. This match will be the first of two great warmups for the quality of opposition we will see in the Europa League Final against Manchester United, and frankly it’s a match that Villarreal still need to take something away from.
Our last match against Sevilla was the only time in the last six they’ve beaten us, so hopefully we’ll get things back on track here. Sevilla have won three of their last five and their only loss in that stretch has been to Athletic Club. Frankly, they’re an excellent team with a manager who is very, very underappreciated. Their last match is against Alaves, and while Sevilla is very healthy for their contest with us (as far as I know), Rakitic, Kounde, and Jesus Navas are all one yellow card from suspension and may play things a bit more cautious because of that. May be worth keeping an eye on.
Offensively, Sevilla is worse than we are, having about 7 fewer expected goals and scoring three fewer goals on the year. Where they make up for it is defensively, where they’ve only conceded 29 times this year compared to our 42.
I really expect a very similar lineup to what we saw on Thursday. We’re on a bad spell at home. After not losing in our first 12 home matches, we’ve lost five out of our last seven. Emery needs a result, and he has a full week before the match against Real Madrid. I think he really goes for it here. One change I’d personally like to see is a Yeremi Pino start. It may just be that he’s so impactful off the bench because he’s fresh and the other players aren’t, but I really liked what I saw from him against Real Valladolid in a top two with Gerard and I’d like to see more of it.
The race for Europe
We have the tie break with Celta, so as long as we get one more point this season they cannot beat us to the last European spot no matter what they do. They face Barcelona and Betis the rest of the way. If they lose or draw either match, they can’t catch us.
Real Betis, on the other hand, has the tiebreak with us, so we cannot afford to end level on points with them as we currently are. They face Huesca and Celta in their remaining two matches, and getting more points out of Sevilla and Madrid than they get out of those matches will be tall ask.
Real Sociedad face a Valladolid side who, if you’re like me, you don’t find very impressive, and Osasuna who has nothing to play for on the last day. Both our matches with them were draws this year so that tiebreak is goal differential, which they currently beat us at by four goals. Basically, the scenario where we end up ahead of them in the table involves one of the following: them getting one point or less while we get a win; them getting three points, us getting four, and us beating either Madrid or Sevilla by five or more goals; or us getting six points to their four or less the rest of the way..
So, if you’re tracking these scenarios like I am, we basically need to go ahead and grab a point, take 7th, and hope we win the UEL so that we are playing Champions League instead of Europa Conference next year. For those of you who have been following 538’s numbers on this, they have it as a 61% chance that we finish 7th, a 1% chance we finish 8th, and a 37% chance we finish in 5th or 6th.
Worth reminding you that in the last two rounds, all La Liga matches will be played at the same time.
If Unai runs the same formation he did against Valladolid, I think we win this one 2-1. If he doesn’t (and the change isn’t Yeremi for Paco), we’re probably gonna lose. We just don’t have enough healthy depth right now to fidget with the lineup.