Villarreal’s European record over the last two and a half seasons has been imperious, so are they the favourites to win the Europa Conference League?
In the last 24 months, they’ve eliminated Arsenal, Manchester United, Atalanta, Juventus and Bayern Munich, en route to winning the Europa League in 2021 and then last season’s Champions League semis.
All of this though was achieved by Unai Emery, with el Submarino Amarillo not looking nearly as strong since his departure in October.
In simple terms, Emery won all six Europa Conference League fixtures, with Quique Setién failing to win either of his, albeit they were dead-rubber group games.
Meanwhile, in La Liga, Villarreal lost four in a row for the first time in 24 years last month, but have since stabilised with back-to-back wins, most-recently beating Almería 2-0 on Saturday.
This has seen them climb back up to sixth, but the Yellow Submarine are far from as impenitrible with Setién at the helm.
So, can Anderlecht spring a surprise and knockout one of the favourites for the trophy?
In the previous round, the Purple and Whites needed a penalty shootout to oust Ludogorets, after a 2-2 draw on aggregate.
Amazingly, the hosts scored all three of their penalties in Brussels, while the Bulgarian champions missed all three of their attempts.
In their history, Anderlecht have won five major European trophies, also reaching the Europa League quarter-finals just six years ago.
Right now though, Brian Riemer’s team are tenth in the Jupiler Pro League, following Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Gent.
So, despite their own flaws and deficiencies, a Villarreal win seems likely overall, even if Anderlecht will give them a run for their money at Stade Constant Vanden Stock.
Anderlecht team news
Jan Vertonghen is the key man at the back for Anderlecht, with this set to be his 128th appearances in UEFA club competition.
Concerningly, Fábio Silva remains their top scorer this season with 11, despite being recalled by Wolves and then joining PSV in January.
Villarreal team news
Strikers José Luis Morales and Gerard Moreno both scored at Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos on Saturday, so it’ll be interesting to see who leads the line.
Either-way, Yeremy and Samuel Chukwueze will continue out-wide, the latter especially has been terrific of late.
Alberto Moreno hobbled off against Almería, so Alfonso Pedraza could deputise at left-back.
40 year old Pepe Reina will continue in goal; his first appearance in a European tournament came for Barcelona against Club Brugge in the UEFA Cup 23 years ago.