Villarreal and Sevilla set to resume their La Liga battle in Europe
The first thing to say with regards to this match-up is that the other 14 teams in the competition should be pretty damn pleased. Both Sevilla and Villarreal have the credentials to go all the way in this tournament, and one of them is going home after this tie. The second thing to say is, the Europa League’s Round of 16 has provided its audience a game of tremendous value at this stage of the tournament.
Villarreal win Evens
Sevilla win 53/20
(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
When they met in October at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, a 93rd minute penalty from Carlos Bacca completed a painfully late turnaround for Sevilla, who had gone 1-0 down with just ten minutes of the game to play. It was an encounter that entirely summed up the ultra-competitive relationship between these two sides, who are currently separated by a single point in La Liga’s race for Europe.
Things have changed since their last meeting though. Sevilla’s 2-1 win over Villarreal took them to second in the league after nine games, while their not-so-clinical opponents lurched closer to mid-table. Over the turn of the year however, the Yellow Submarine have hit their stride devastatingly. And with one man in particular giving them an edge nobody had foreseen.
If you’ve not heard of him yet, Luciano Vietto is the 21-year-old terrorising every defence in Spain. Not even the top three have been able to escape his demolition so far, in which he has chipped in with a staggering 19 goals in his first season outside of Argentina. He has already slammed one home in front of Sevilla’s infamous north stand this season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him have the same effect on Thursday night.
Stopping Vietto doesn’t mean stopping Villarreal by any means though. Marcelino has got his team functioning tremendously well; the Argentine just so happens to be exceptionally well-versed in contributing and benefiting from the team’s production. The loss of captain (and talisman) Bruno Soriano in mid-February has perhaps demonstrated best how the system prevails over all at Villarreal, who have barely skipped a beat since drafting in Tomás Pina at the heart of midfield.
It’s just as well that they have kept the show rolling too. Sevilla haven’t lost a game on home soil this season, which is a record that no other team in Spain can lay claim to. The reigning Europa League champions have not always thrilled in Unai Emery’s second season, but there is no doubting their tenacity and stubbornness. Managing the two-legged affair with Borussia Mönchengladbach in the previous round is nothing to be sniffed at, and only serves to reinforce their credibility in this competition.
The fact is, Sevilla are very well suited to competing over two legs. With the immovable duo of Grzegorz Krychowiak and Vicente Iborra doing their work in front of the back four, it takes a skilled outfit to break down the team’s defensive core. At the same time, the energy of Vitolo and Aleix Vidal on the wings can be a devastating weapon, as Gladbach found out rather harshly last month.
The Europa League can be scoffed at by some, but it’s a platform which Sevilla have come to associate with massively in recent years. “It’s a competition we love,” Unai Emery said after the Gladbach victory. He speaks for the fans when he says that too, and their voices will be heard in Castellón on Thursday evening.
For Villarreal however, this is a mammoth-sized opportunity. Marcelino’s team selections over the last month have said so themselves. Significantly rested elevens have graced the league just recently, with this exact game in mind. Knocking out a team of Sevilla’s pedigree would be symbolic, and a real incentive to go on and think about winning their first honour since 2004. But first, some real groundwork is going to have to be laid at their El Madrigal home.
Betting Instinct tip – Villarreal to win the first leg and both teams to score is 5/2 with Intertops.eu