In today’s official Europa League press conference, the Villarreal manager, Marcelino García Toral, highlighted prior to the Round of 16 second leg against Bayer Leverkusen (Thursday, 7pm CET, BayArena stadium) that despite the goal advantage from the first leg (2-0 in favour of the Yellows), he expects an intense and very difficult match against the Germans. “We expect our opponents to come out all guns blazing, tirelessly, to close the gap. Bayer is a very intense team. The start of the game will be difficult. It seems impossible to me that we won’t suffer in this tie. Between us and the next round an extremely difficult game awaits us, even though we’re going into it with the upper hand. A knockout tie is 180 minutes long and to get through you have to play both games well. We’ve done half the job and we have to focus now on finishing it off now. In El Madrigal we counteracted Leverkusen’s defence and attack. Our aim is to score a goal which will take us even closer to achieving our objective”.
Furthermore, the manager confirmed that he can’t count on the French goalkeeper Alphonse Areola who misses the game due to a left knee injury. “Areola will be out for this game. The rest of the players are available though, perhaps some are limited but they’re alright to play. Asenjo has been on the team sheet because he’s available. We’ll see who plays in goal from now on”.
The manager also wanted to stress that the team are only focused on the European tie and not the LaLiga fixture against FC Barcelona on Sunday (4pm CET, El Madrigal). “Now we’re focused on the Leverkusen clash, and not at all on the league. We don’t doubt the team and are convinced that we’ll get through to the next round, although we’ll have to suffer”.
Rukavina: “We know they’re going to come out strong”
Along with the management team, defender Antonio Rukavina explained that the Yellows must be wary of the German side, who will come out strong. The Serbian believes Bayer will look to score quickly, so a solid defence and looking to break on the counter attack will be the best option for Marcelino’s men: “We have a good result from the first tie, but we’re going to come up against a really tough opposition who will come out strong to score an early goal. Villarreal won’t go out there just to defend though, we know that we must score a goal to take us even closer to the Quarter-finals. Our counter attack will be our best weapon because they’ll be looking to score quickly and we know we do this really well. We have to defend well first and then look to break from there”.