Carlos Bacca, of Villarreal

Why the final is so important for Villarreal

Monday 17 May 2021 14:39

Manchester United’s UEFA Europa League final opponents Villarreal have some crucial matches coming up, in terms of deciding their European destiny for next season.

The Yellow Submarine take on United in the highly anticipated final at the Stadion Miejski in Gdansk on 26 May, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bidding to win his first trophy as manager of the club.

Champions League football is also guaranteed for the winner, but of course the Reds have already booked our place in the group stage for 2021/22.

However, for Unai Emery’s side, the final in Poland could prove to be vital.

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The 2006 Champions League semi-finalists guaranteed at least a spot in UEFA's new Conference League tournament on Sunday, by virtue of demolishing Sevilla, a side who were title contenders until recently and, of course, knocked us out of Europe last August.

A Carlos Bacca hat-trick and Gerard Moreno's 23rd goal of the season secured a convincing 4-0 victory over the Andalusians and kept the gap to eighth-placed Celta Vigo - who beat Barcelona 2-1 at the Nou Camp - to five points, meaning they cannot be caught with just one weekend of the season to play.

La Liga's two Europa League places are still up for grabs, as our final opponents are level on points with Real Betis in sixth place and a point behind Real Sociedad in fifth.

In their final league match on Saturday, Villarreal face title-chasing Real Madrid, who need to win and hope Atletico Madrid drop points at relegation candidates Real Valladolid if they are to claim consecutive league titles.

Of course, the Yellow Submarine will be wanting to finish as high as possible, but whether they secure Europa League qualification or not, the holy grail of Champions League football will still be up for grabs in Gdansk.

Villarreal, who are in their first European final, have competed in the continent's premier tournament on three occasions - 2005/06, 2008/09 and 2011/12. In the first two editions, they faced United in the group stages, with all four games between the sides ending in goalless draws.

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Ahead of the final week of the campaign, Villarreal will have concerns about Nigerian star Samuel Chukwueze. The winger suffered a hamstring injury in their Europa League semi-final return leg against Arsenal and the 21-year-old could be out for the remainder of the campaign.

Defender Juan Foyth, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, is also an injury doubt but is more likely to be able to feature against the Reds following a muscle injury which he suffered at the end of April. Former Leicester City midfielder Vicente Iborra is still out with a long-term ligament injury.