Again Allianz Arena, again yellow opponents. Those are the only similarities I can think of. Here’s the preview for game 5 of 6, including guest appearance.
This isn’t a must-win match for Bayern (they’ll of course want to win to avoid trouble in Manchester). One point would be enough to qualify for the knockout stages, even a loss would suffice unless Napoli wins. After Dortmund, before Mainz, this is a good moment to regain confidence. You know the circumstances. Bastian Schweinsteiger is still injured, Arjen Robben is back and will start, according to Heynckes, and Holger Badstuber is suspended after that questionable sending-off against Napoli. It’s unlikely but we might even see Breno back in the squad. Who knows, a comfortable lead late in the second half and he might even enter the pitch…hopefully with tons of applause.
But enough about Bayern, you know what’s happening in Munich. For the guests it is a must-win match to keep the last hopes of qualifying for the Europa League alive. I again invited Ravi, who you might remember from this great preview piece (check it for details on how to follow him and his great work), to tell us what has happened in Vila-real/Villarreal (use whichever you think is more appropriate, I don’t know) since the first clash between the teams. It’s been quite a bit and most of it not exactly great news. But read yourself:
What is up with the Yellow Submarine?
Between the Champions League group opener at home against Bayern and now, it has been nothing short of a nightmare for Villarreal. They started off on the wrong foot when coach Garrido got it wrong with his 4-3-1-2 and played into one of the strong suits of Bayern, width. They have lost all 4 games of the Champions League with a combined score of 1-9.
How did it happen? First it was bad planning, the team didnt have a good preseason. The big signing, Jonathan De Guzman came in very late and he had to slot right into the starting lineup of the Bayern game. And then injuries struck. Lots of injuries. And then some more. At one point in the season Villarreal didn’t have a fit striker in their first team. They were forced to play Villarreal B’s Joselu (who had just been promoted from Villarreal C which plays in the 4th division of Spanish football) upfront as the lone forward against Manchester City on his debut. And some of it was just bad luck, poor decisions at the worst possible moments in the games
Nilmar, Rossi, Cani, Zapata, Camuñas are all out with medium to long-term injuries. Senna was injured on and off all through the season. Ángel is coming off a 10-month layoff and still unsure how much for a role he will play going forward.
Villarreal’s league form isnt any better. They have 3 wins from 12 games, two of which came in the last 3 games. They languish in the 12 position about 3 points off the dropzone.
The team has given up on elegant and intricate style of football based on interiores and slick passing to embrace a more pragmatic and result oriented counter-attacking approach. They dont dominate possession stats anymore. In their last La Liga game against lowly Real Betis, they had 32% of the ball and still won the game with goal from a counterattack. The new pragmatism has stopped the bleeding and brought some results (7 points in the last 3 La Liga home games). Coach Garrido is doing the best with what he has good. Any team with so many influential starters out, would probably do the same.
Champions League, is a different kettle of fish though. They have nothing left to lose. They could still get to the Europa League if they win their last two games and Napoli loses both their games but it is highly unlikely. Moreover, Europa League could be a double-edged sword for thin squads. The lack of pressure might help them break the shackles and play relaxed. Who knows, they might even switch back to the old Villarreal. There might be a few surprises in the starting line-up. I would love to see the youngster Joselu start alongside Ruben just to see what he can do at the highest level.
Not all news is bad news in Vila-real. Nilmar is expected to be in the squad for the Málaga game on Monday 28-Nov. Cani and Zapata might be back for the last league game just before Christmas. Villarreal is also looking to sign a striker to cover for Rossi who is out until May with an ACL injury. One of the names that is in rumours is that of Bayern’s out-of-favour striker, Ivica Olic.
The goals for Villarreal this season are simple. Try to get as many points as possible before the new year irrespective of how they play. Once all the key players are back from injuries, try to get back to playing the type of football they are known for and have a run at the European places. With 27 games left to play in La Liga, there is a still a lot to play for.
Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Champions League. This will be the first time (out of 8 appearances) Villarreal would fail to qualify for the knockout rounds of the European competitions. An impressive record for a team that got promoted to the Spanish Primera for the first time about 12 years ago.
I wrote a match-specific preview here: ForzaFutbol – Bayern v Villarreal Preview
Thanks a lot, Ravi. If it wasn’t against the club we love, we’d all be cheering for you guys.
One last thing, to reward the few who actually read the entire piece, the probable lineups. Bayern’s is all but set, Villarreal’s is still uncertain since, believe it or not, there’s more injury trouble. Center back Gonzalo Rodriguez is definitely out, midfielders Jonathan de Guzman and Borja Valero are doubtful. So if Juan Carlos Garrido’s lineup looks different, don’t blame us.
Rafinha – van Buyten – Boateng – Lahm
Tymoshchuk – Kroos
Robben – Müller – Ribery
Joselu – M. Ruben
Oriol – B. Soriano – M. Senna – H. Perez
Catala – Musacchio – Marchena – Angel Lopez