14th of February 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
One of the most interesting matches of the first knockout round of the UEFA Europa League takes place at Parc Olympique Lyonnais where home side Lyon take on Spanish outfit Villarreal. The two teams have never met before in an European competition, but both of them have quite a bit of experience in continental football. Lyon have played against Spanish teams on 30 occasions and have won nine of those matches, while Villarreal met French sides six times and won just twice.
Lyon had little trouble in getting past the group stage in the Europa League this season, but that was mostly due to the fact that Everton and Apollon had disappointing performances in Group E. In Ligue 1, Lyon are still in the battle for a place in the top three, but last weekend they lost 2-0 at home to Rennes and dropped four points behind third-placed Marseille. Rafael is the only injury concern for the home side, who should see Memphis Depay return to the starting eleven after having missed last week's match.
Villarreal finished at the top of the table in Group A but they had probably the easiest group they could have hoped for, with FC Astana, Slavia Prague and Maccabi Tel Aviv. They are coming into this match after two consecutive defeats in LaLiga, 2-1 at Betis and also 2-1 at home against Alaves, results that kept them in fifth place in the league table. They have quite a few injury concerns ahead of this match, no less than five players are set to miss out: Andres Fernandez, Ruben Semedo, Bruno Soriano, Nicola Sansone and Ramiro Guerra.
Lyon: Lopes - Tete, Marcelo, Diakhaby, Marcal - Aouar, N'Dombele - Cornet, Fekir, Depay - Mariano
Villarreal: Barbosa - Rukavina, Bonera, Ruiz, Marin - Raba, Rodri, Trigueros - Fornals - Unal, Bacca
My prediction: 1-0 victory for Lyon.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Lyon win - 1.95
Draw - 3.29
Villarreal win - 4.00
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Lyon reached the semis last season and they have had a good chances of even playing at the final but didn't succeed in the end.
That just shows how good of a side they could be and it wasn't much of a surprise that they knocked out Villareal this time and I'm sure will look further to make another memorable appearance in this tournament.
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