Champions League: Villarreal aim to keep European record going against Bayern Munich

Villarreal’s Estadio de la Ceramica will be sold out with 22,500 fans in the stands for Wednesday’s first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich.

Villarreal progressed to the last eight of the competition after a spectacular 3-0 win away to Juventus in the last round and Bayern know that since Unai Emery took over at the Spanish club almost two years ago, Villarreal have not yet lost a European tie.

Last season saw them win the Europa League to book their place in this season’s Champions League, getting past sides such as Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Kiev, Dinamo Zagreb and Arsenal, before beating Manchester United in a penalty shoot-out.

This year they came through a Champions League group that included Manchester United, Young Boys and Atalanta. Although they lost both games to the English side (after arguably playing better in both matches), a win in Italy was enough to see them through.

They looked to have an uphill task in the last-16 of the Champions League after being held 1-1 at home by Juventus in the first leg of their tie, but an incredible second-half display in Turin, with goals from Gerard Moreno, Pau Torres and Arnaut Danjuma in the last 12 minutes seeing them into the quarter-finals.

Villarreal’s progress in La Liga suffered a setback on Saturday when they lost 2-0 to bottom of the table Levante and they have another vital match at home to Athletic Club Bilbao on Saturday afternoon, which could mark a question of their qualification for Europe next season.

However, Emery has few options other than to play his strongest available side against Bayern who have won two and drawn two of their last four visits to Spain.

Bayern will be without Corentin Tolisso for the game after he suffered a muscle injury, but Joshua Kimmich will be available after becoming a father, putting an end to doubt over whether or not he would be able to travel with his wife on the point of giving birth to their third child.

Last Monday morning, Kimmich experienced one of the values of team sports — as soon as the 27-year-old entered Bayern Munich’s training pitch, the entire squad for a reason gave him a round of warm applause.

The news of the birth of the midfielders’ third child has lifted spirits ahead of the last-eight-round duel in the Champions League against Villareal.

Coming along with the enchanting news of Kimmich’s growing toddler group was the Bavarians’ relief about the return of the German international just in time to face the challenges of April as the season approaches the finish line.

After missing two internationals with Germany delayed, Kimmich had to follow his club’s travel group on the way to a league game in Freiburg but narrowly made it in time for 90 minutes of action.

The good news continued after Kimmich’s midfield partner Leon Goretzka returned after a long injury break, completing Bayern’s midfield.

Being able to count on his best line in one of the season’s most decisive months is increasing the options for Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Alphonso Davies took up training following a Covid-19 infection coming along with heart problems. The Canadian full-back, awarded the CONCACAF player of the year, according to Nagelsmann is ready for action on Wednesday.

As the favorites against the Spaniards, the 2020 treble winner is aiming at its 23rd unbeaten away game aside from not having lost one of its last 29 games in the Champions League, reports Xinhua.

While Bayern claim to entirely focus on the encounters against Villareal, dreams about a possible semi-final against Liverpool (facing Benfica) are blooming.

Bayern forward Thomas Muller in a newsletter spoke about his dream to face former Bayern coach Pep Guardiola and the Citizens in a possible final.

“I am looking forward to meeting Pep and one of his teams since 2016,” the 32-year-old told fans in his so-called Muller-mail.

The striker talked about Guardiola’s significant influence on Bayern’s game having helped the Bavarians to implement a dominant game style. “It would be interesting to face a Pep team and see what we experience,” the German international stated.

To survive the Citizens and Liverpool the fighting power of Kimmich and Goretzka is a must-have for Bayern, as the reigning German champion is talking about a prosperous 2021/2022 campaign.

As exciting dreams about the final stages of the Champions League might be, Bayern at the same time feel the pressure on their shoulders having to justify their role as the favorites against Villareal.

Much more than having to think about his midfield and front-line appointments, Nagelsmann might puzzle over his back-line.

Kimmich and Goretzka might help to gain stability as it would have the participation of central Niklas Sule, who returned after an injury.

The 26-year-old can count on the experience of 34 Champions League games while Dayot Upamecano and Tanguy Nianzou only made 32 together.

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