12th of December 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
Villarreal and Spartak Moscow clash in UEFA Europa League Group G on Thursday at Estadio de la Ceramica to decide which of the two teams pulls through to the next stage of the competition. The reverse fixture was a very spectacular one, it ended 3-3 after Villarreal had led 1-0 and 2-1 only to fall 3-2 behind. Former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla settled the score by converting a penalty kick on 96 minutes, a cruel outcome for Spartak. The two teams had met just twice before, it happened in the 2004 edition of the now defunct Intertoto Cup, and back then Villarreal qualified after a 1-0 home victory and a 2-2 draw in Moscow.
Villarreal are currently in pole position to qualify from Group G, they are tied on 7 points with Rapid Wien, Rangers are one point behind and Spartak are last in the group with 5 points. A draw would guarantee Villarreal their passage to the next round, but only a win would make sure they finish first in the group. They are the only unbeaten team in the group at the moment, with four draws and a win, and they have not conceded any goals in the last three matches. Their latest result is a goalless draw at Rangers, while last week they lost 3-2 at home against Celta Vigo in LaLiga. Miguelon, Bruno Soriano, Manuel Iturra and Mariano Barbosa are injured and will miss Thursday's match.
Spartak Moscow have only one chance to advance to the next round, and that is to win at Villarreal on Thursday. They nearly defeated the Spanish team in the reverse fixture and they are certainly capable of doing it now, at least their attacking power is up to the task. In fact, Spartak have scored five goals in the last two group matches, but only managed to collect three points as they have conceded four. They lost both matches against Rapid Wien, but defeated Rangers 4-3. Samuel Gigot, Pedro Rocha, Roman Zobnin and Andrey Eshchenko are all injured and very likely to miss the match.
Villarreal: Fernandez - Gaspar, Gonzalez, Mori, Costa - Trigueros, Caseres, Morlanes - Fornals - Ekambi, Bacca
Spartak: Maksimenko - Rasskazov, Kutepov, Dzhikiya, Melgarejo - Lomovitskiy, Timofeev, Glushakov, Hanni - Adriano, Luis
My prediction: Villarreal to win 2-1, the Russian side have serious defensive problems and the home side should be able to exploit them.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Villarreal win - 1.53
Draw - 3.80
Spartak win - 6.50
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12th of December 2018
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This one has been a really even group till the very last day of play but in the end the home sides in face of Rapid Wien and Villareal managed to use the home advantage in their favor and be qualified for an expense of the Rangers and Spartak Moskow teams who also performed well but didn't manage to snatch more points in the close games they've had.
The previous meeting of Spartak and Villareal which Johnny mentioned above is just an example of all that and the points the Russians have missed to gain.
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