Spanish Rivals Meet in Europa League Quarterfinal

Europa League – Villarreal v Valencia – Quarterfinal Round

It’s time for the Europa League quarterfinals, with the first leg kicking off around Europe on 11 April at 3:00pm EST (8:00pm GMT). We covered the draw after it happened last month, and we’ll be taking a look at all four matchups this week.

Up next, we’re going to take a look at the matchup between two Spanish clubs, with Villarreal playing host to Valencia. Their leg one match kicks off from Estadio de la Cerámica in Villarreal, Spain on Thursday, 11 April at 9:00pm GMT (3:00pm EST).

What Happened in the Round of 16

Neither club struggled much in the Round of 16, entering their second leg of their matchups as overwhelming favorites to advance.

Villarreal jumped out in leg one and won 3-1 over Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia, which made their advancement nearly a foregone conclusion. With a 2-1 victory in leg two, they advanced 5-2 on aggregate over two matches that weren’t as close as the final scores indicated.

Valencia played host for leg one of their Round of 16 matchup against Krasnodar, and came away with a 2-1 victory, moving their advancement odds to over 3-in-1. However, a late goal by Krasnodar in leg two – which would have allowed the Russians to advance on away goals – needed to be answered for Valencia to make it through. Gonçalo Guedes came through three minutes into stoppage time to draw leg two even at 1-1, allowing Valencia to advance 3-2 on aggregate.

Back Home in League Play

Both clubs have had very different seasons in Spain’s La Liga this year. After finishing fifth last season, Villarreal has dropped all the way to 17th place in the league this year, and is currently in relegation position with seven matches left to play. They’ve spent the bulk of the season towards the bottom of the league, only once climbing into the top 10 after a late September victory.

Valencia, on the other hand, has all but matched their fourth place performance from a year ago and currently finds themselves in sixth place, four points behind fourth place Getafe for the league’s final Championship spot. A 12-match unbeaten streak (6-6-0) – which was snapped with a loss on Saturday – helped Valencia climb out of mid-table purgatory and places them squarely back in the mix for European competition next season.

Unlike any of the other matchups in this round, this match features two clubs that have actually played each other this season, and Valencia comes out on top in that regard. When the clubs met in Villarreal in September, the match ended in a scoreless draw, while their January rematch in Valencia ended with a 3-0 victory for the home club.

What the Experts are Saying

Likely due to their relative league performance (and head-to-head matchups), Valencia is favored to advance to the semifinals in 62% of FiveThirtyEight simulations. As the home team, Villarreal is a slight favorite in leg one (39% chance of victory versus 35% for Valencia), so if Valencia can find some away goals or even walk away with the win, that 62% chance of advancing will likely increase heading into leg two.

What We’re Thinking

Despite their struggles in Spain this season, Villarreal has yet to lose in Europa League this season (5-5-0), though that could have been the result of a favorable group stage draw. Still, that performance is hard to discount, at least at first glance. But Valencia has won the season series in La Liga between the clubs, and I don’t expect this matchup to be much different.

Villarreal would be better served by trying to avoid relegation in La Liga then spending another month playing in European competition. Still, if they can somehow come away with the victory in leg one, they should take advantage of their good fortune and push for advancement, despite having only a 6% chance at winning the whole thing.

Until next time…

 

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