Villarreal won their first ever European trophy on May 26th, beating Manchester United 11-10 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Gdansk. This was after knocking out Emery’s old club Arsenal in the semi-finals and Dinamo Zagreb in the quarters. The run to victory was hard-fought, but the Yellow Submarine overcame the odds to secure their place in history, as being from the smallest city to ever win any European title.
Wednesday’s match in Belfast against Chelsea is a chance to make it two European trophies from two finals. Although the Super Cup is often billed as a glorified friendly, it is a honour that both teams will absolutely want to win. Chelsea have lost their last three appearances in the competition, following their 2013 and 2019 Europa League, and 2012 Champions League triumphs. They, under manager Thomas Tuchel, will be keen to end this bad streak, and kick off their season with European victory.
Unai Emery will be out for revenge against Chelsea: they were the victors in the 2019 Europa League final as the Spaniard’s Arsenal side were humiliated 4-1 in Baku. He will also be looking to improve his Super Cup record as his two previous Super Cup games both ended in defeat: 2-0 to Real Madrid in 2014 and 5-4 to Barcelona in 2015. However, considering the strength of the European Champions he faced on those occasions, he can hardly be criticised too much for those losses.
Chelsea are clear favourites for this tie. Villarreal have had a torrid pre-season, without a single victory and heavy disruptions caused by injury and Covid. However, they will be boosted by Monday’s announcement that star striker Gerard Moreno has signed a new 6-year contract, which was revealed as he dressed up in the Groguet club mascot suit.
Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0 in the Champions League final to claim their second European cup, and will be looking to add to their trophy laden cabinet with their star studded squad.
It is currently tough to understand who is available for Villarreal. Pau Torres seems to be in the squad, despite not having a minute’s rest following a long summer away at the Euro’s and the Olympics, and the likes of Paco Alcacer and Vincente Iborra were absent from the team during a lot of the pre-season campaign.
Dani Parejo is injured and will definitely miss the game, which is a huge blow. Samuel Chukwueze is also absent, following his injury in the Europa League Semi-final second leg. Left back Pervis Estupinan has been linked with a move to Napoli in recent days.
Asenjo; Mario, Albiol, Pau, Pedraza; Yeremi, Foyth, Morlanes, Trigueros; Gerard, Dia.
It seems Pau will play this match, then take an extended break and will miss the start of the season, so it looks like the usual back 4, with captain Mario at right back. Given the absence of Parejo, I can see a 442 being deployed, with Foyth stepping into centre mid, and Trigueros taking his left wing- centre mid hybrid role he was playing in towards the end of the season. New signing Boulaye Dia from Reims could be thrown straight into the action alongside Gerard in a front two. Youngster Yeremi Pino started the Europa League final and impressed, and given that Chukwueze is still missing, can be considered a valuable option to start.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have not added new(ish) signing Romelu Lukaku to their 24 man squad, but boast an otherwise full roster to pick from, including Euro finalists Jorginho and Mason Mount. I expect they’ll continue with their 343 formation which proved so successful last season.
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Rudiger; Hudson Odoi, Kovacic, Kante, Chilwell; Ziyech, Werner, Havertz.
The likes of Zouma and Pulisic are also in contention to start but it may be too early for the players who returned late from the Euros, such as Reece James. Hudson-Odoi, although an attacking winger, has experience at right-wing back under Tuchel and will likely start there.
Given the injuries to Villarreal and the strength in depth Chelsea possess, even without Lukaku, it is tough to see any outcome other than a Chelsea win. A good result will be an improved performance defensively from the displays in pre-season and a healthy adaptation match for Dia upfront, whilst keeping it tight. 2-1 Chelsea win.
Safe travels to all Groguets making the trip to Belfast, on what should be a great occasion, even with the odds stacked firmly in Chelsea’s favour. If anyone can spring an upset though, it’s Villarreal.