Having already upset the odds in this season’s Champions League, Villarreal will seek another memorable European scalp when Bayern Munich pay a visit to the Estadio de la Ceramica for the first leg of their quarter-final tie on Wednesday night.
Unai Emery’s men produced a phenomenal showing against Juventus to book their spot in the last eight, while the Bavarians ultimately ran out comfortable winners over Red Bull Salzburg.
Villarreal were up against it after a matter of seconds in their last-16 encounter with Juventus, with Dusan Vlahovic taking no time at all to settle into life in the Champions League before the Yellow Submarine sank the Old Lady from thereon in.
After recovering to draw the first leg 1-1, Villarreal travelled to Turin in more hope than expectation but humbled the Italian giants on their Allianz Stadium turf, as Gerard Moreno, Pau Torres and Arnaut Danjuma all found the target within the last 20 minutes.
Now rewarded with a tie against even more daunting opposition in Bayern Munich, Villarreal have failed to keep the momentum going following their historic night in Turin – following up a 1-0 loss to Cadiz with an equally dismal 2-0 defeat to Levante at the weekend.
With their La Liga fortunes taking a turn for the worse in the past few weeks, their top-six destiny is now out of their own hands as they continue as underdogs in the Champions League, where they have been knocked out in the quarter-finals once before to Arsenal in 2008-09.
As disappointing as their recent run on the road has been, barring the 3-0 win at Juve, Villarreal enter Wednesday’s first leg having strung together a nine-game unbeaten streak on home soil, with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid also failing to get the better of them at the Ceramica in that streak.
Failure to put the tie to bed in the first leg against an incredibly youthful Salzburg outfit did lead to one or two raised eyebrows, but Bayern soon restored order with a traditional Bavarian thumping on their own turf to ease into the next round.
On a day where Manchester United scouts were supposedly watching him in action, Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn let in seven goals to Julian Nagelsmann’s side, with Robert Lewandowski taking just 23 minutes to bag another hat-trick on the night.
Bayern’s customary Bundesliga title is certainly not in the bag just yet, but the reigning champions ensured that they remained out of sight of Borussia Dortmund by thrashing Freiburg 4-1 at the weekend as they seek to avoid a second successive quarter-final exit in the Champions League.
Going eight games unbeaten in all competitions is a surefire way to boost the morale in the squad – not that Bayern normally need it – and not since September 2017 have the German giants suffered defeat away from home in the Champions League.
Bayern and Villarreal met for the very first time in the group stage of the 2011-12 Champions League, with the Bundesliga champions securing a 2-0 win away from home before a 3-1 success in Bavaria en route to collecting their runners-up medals.
Villarreal Champions League form:
Villarreal form (all competitions):
Bayern Munich Champions League form:
Bayern Munich form (all competitions):
We say: Villarreal 0-2 Bayern Munich
Back-to-back league defeats to sides whom they would have expected to beat is not a recipe for success for Villarreal ahead of the visit of Bayern, but they normally prove to be a tough nut to crack at home.
However, playing on rival turf in the Champions League has not phased Bayern for several years now, and we can only picture Nagelsmann’s free-scoring crop claiming a healthy first-leg advantage.