With just four matches of the season left to play, Villarreal and Sevilla will do battle on Sunday in a key contest at the top end of the La Liga table.
The hosts find themselves in a battle for Europa League qualification, as they currently sit seventh in the Spanish top flight, while their visitors need a maximum of seven points from their remaining games to confirm a top-four finish.
While the 2021-22 season may be remembered as an impressive one for Villarreal thanks to their performances on the continental front, the Yellow Submarine may feel disappointed by their domestic campaign, as they currently sit seventh in La Liga.
Having progressed past Juventus and Sevilla to reach the Champions League semi-finals, Unai Emery’s side have appeared to feel the negative impacts of a packed schedule, as a 2-0 first-leg defeat to Liverpool was followed by a shock 2-1 loss at the hands of Alaves in La Liga last weekend.
Villarreal most recently hosted the English outfit for the second leg on Tuesday, and, despite a valiant effort in which they took a two-goal lead on the night and went level on aggregate thanks to goals from Boulaye Dia and Francis Coquelin, they eventually fell short, bowing out of the competition as they were eventually beaten 5-2 over the whole tie.
After bouncing back from an underwhelming start to the La Liga season and quickly climbing the table, the Yellow Submarine again find themselves outside of the top six heading into the final straight, as they sit four points behind sixth-placed Real Sociedad and six shy of fifth-placed Real Betis.
As a result, Emery’s men will know they need to end the season with a positive run of results to stand a chance of qualifying for a European competition next year, but they face a tough test as Sevilla arrive aiming to cement their place in the top four.
On the contrary to their hosts, Sevilla have been largely consistent throughout the La Liga campaign, keeping pace with league leaders Real Madrid for large portions before only falling away in recent months.
A four-game winless run between early March and the beginning of April saw them drop from second spot and provided some cause for concern, but Julen Lopetegui’s side were able to bounce back with a win over Granada before eventually falling to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the now-crowned champions Real Madrid.
Los Nervionenses were again able to return to winning ways against Levante, as Jesus Corona hit a brace and Jules Kounde netted a third in an eventual 3-2 away win, but they now head into the weekend on the back of a disappointing draw with Cadiz.
Youssef En-Nesyri gave them an early lead, but Lopetegui’s men were forced to settle for a point as Lucas Perez drew their visitors level after the hour mark.
While they will be disappointed by their recent form and resultant drop to third place, Sevilla’s form throughout the majority of the campaign has given them a major head start over the chasing pack in the race for Champions League qualification, and they will aim to take a huge step closer to confirming a top-four finish with an away win on Sunday.
Villarreal La Liga form:
Villarreal form (all competitions):
Sevilla La Liga form:
We say: Villarreal 1-2 Sevilla
Villarreal battled hard against Liverpool but ultimately came up short, and they may feel the impact of a drain in adrenaline at the weekend.
We back the visitors, who are more rested than their opponents, to take all three points from Emery’s potentially jaded squad.