Villarreal are heading for Turkey and a match against Sivasspor that could clench a berth in the knockout round of the Europa League. At present Villarreal lead the group with 10 points, Maccabi Tel Aviv have 7, Sivasspor 6, and Qarabag 0. Qarabag host Maccabi in the day’s other match; given Villarreal’s superior goal difference, a point for themselves, or a point for Qarabag, would see Villarreal through with a game to spare. (A Qarabag win would realistically do it, too, regardless of the outcome in Turkey).
Sivasspor and Villarreal played out a wild 5-3 match in Matchday 1, but since then things have been quite a bit tighter. In fact, the Turkish side are going through a bit of a struggle in their league right now—they have no wins in their last five matches (three losses) and haven’t scored more than a goal in any of them. Which is bizarre given how open their EL matches have been!
Villarreal are travelling without a number of injured players: Alberto Moreno, Moi Gomez, Paco Alcacer, and Carlos Bacca, who picked up a muscle injury against Real Sociedad. Raul Albiol is being rested, too, and has not made the trip. So look for players like Alex Baena and Fer Niño to see key roles, as well as Kubo and Samu, while Funes Mori and Foyth probably start at the back.
Sivasspor have COVID-19 issues on top of injury issues. They still have available (I believe) Koné, Yatabaré, and Gradel, and Yalcin was able to retun in their last league match. Their situation is improving (at one point they were missing 12 players, and 7 versus Qarabag) but are now down to 4 absentees. They are especially thin defensively and are also missing some good midfield players like Arslan and Fajr.
Prediction: I’m going for 2-1 to Villarreal. We will probably give up a goal off a dead ball situation, but I’m hoping we can shut things down enough and create problems for their makeshift back line to win through. Would be a great match for Kubo and Samu to step up!!