Euro 2020 Special
 

La Liga: Familiar Faces, Familiar Places

Villarreal vs Sevilla

Unai Emery is a figure who will always be remembered fondly by Sevilla.

He guided them to three successive Europa League triumphs and nights in which fans of the Andalusians will forever dream about.

If he can lead his current team Villarreal to Euro glory in the same competition a week and a half from now, he will make further history and be forever lauded by another La Liga club.

That possibility, however, will have to wait as the winners of last year’s tournament visit the Estadio de la Ceramica for a reunion with the man known in their quarters as Mr. Europa League.

Certainly a match between the sides in seventh and fourth respectively has the pedigree to produce La Liga 2021 highlights.

Talking Points

Realistically, this contest is such that a draw would likely suit both sides.

The Yellow Submarine could finish as high as fifth with two league matches remaining but a point in this will secure another Europa League spot next term.

And of course they have the May 26 final in Gdansk to come for which success would lead to Champions League qualification.

Meanwhile, Sevilla could still finish second, although Julen Lopetegui’s charges are no longer in the title race despite an excellent last couple of months.

Sevilla will be looking for a strong finish in the La Liga table as they travel to El Madrigal to face Villarreal
Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui commanding from the touchline

They drew 2-2 at reigning champions Real Madrid last weekend and followed that up with success over Valencia in midweek.

Their title changes may be gone but in fairness, they were always outsiders and not even considered contenders until a run of seven wins from eight matches between March 14 and April 25 saw them close the gap on the top three.

Despite this, Lopetegui’s team is only two points behind third-placed Barcelona, and there is no question it would be a real breakthrough if they manage to break into the top three.

Mathematically as it stands, Sevilla could still finish level on points with leaders Atletico. But Diego Simeone’s side have a better head-to-head record, meaning that Los Nervionenses are not able to win the title even if they pick up six more points and Atletico, Real Madrid, and Barcelona all lose their final two games.

This weekend, Lopetegui has a full complement of players available and is expected to welcome back the likes of Marcos Acuna, Fernando, Papu Gomez, Lucas Ocampos, and Ivan Rakitic to the first XI.

Luuk de Jong is an option for change in the final third of the field, but Youssef En-Nesyri scored his 18th league goal of the season against Valencia and should retain his spot.

That was his 24th goal of the season in all competitions and there has been speculation Sevilla may cash in on a player whose goals have resulted in up to 19 points for the club so far this term.

In the event a team offers 50-million Euros to sign the Moroccan, the bid could be too good to turn down which would see them potentially make a 30-million Euro profit from a player experiencing his first-ever full season at a top club.

Unlike his counterpart, Emery does not have the comfort of a full squad to select from this weekend.

They be will missing at least half a dozen players on Sunday, including Mario Gaspar, Geronimo Rulli, and Etienne Capoue — who are all suspended — while Samuel Chukzueze, Juan Foyth, and Vicente Iborra are injured.

On a more positive note, Francis Coquelin could shake off a knock to feature with dangerous duo Paco Alcacer and Gerard Moreno leading the line.

Villarreal have a tough end to the season with a trip to Real Madrid to come on the final weekend, and they have found consistency at home hard to come by this season. They’ve won seven, drawn six, and lost five of their 18 matches on their own pitch.

Sevilla have won 10 times on their travels in La Liga this season and will definitely start as favourites.

History

Sevilla recorded a 2-0 home win over Villarreal when they met at Christmas, courtesy of goals from Ocampos and En-Nesyri.

That was the first time Villarreal had lost against Sevilla in six meetings.

Indeed, they are bidding for a first league double over their opponents since 2008-09.

The corresponding fixture last term ended 2-2.