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Preview: FC Astana – Villarreal

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Villarreal and Astana are both in contention for qualification to the knockout stages of the Europa League, as they top Group A. The Spanish side is first with eight points, while today’s host are second, only one point behind.

 

Flashscore presents the key facts before the match:

Europa League (EL) regulars Villarreal will take on 4-time Kazakh Premier League winners FC Astana in a EL Group A top-of-the-table fixture that could see one or even both sides qualify for the knockouts.

Astana are currently 2nd in the group (7 pts, W2 D1 L1) and can progress if they win and Slavia Prague fail to win against Maccabi Tel Aviv. Villarreal are top of the standings (8 pts, W2 D2 L0) and can seal qualification with a win.

The hosts are unbeaten in 17 European home games (W9 D8) since losing 3-0 to Villarreal in the 2014/15 Europa League play-offs. That loss was incidentally the heaviest in Astana’s European history.

Astana do not boast a good record against Spanish sides and have no wins in 5 matches (D1 L4), scoring just 1 goal. That goal was scored in the 3-1 defeat to Villarreal on matchday 1 this season. Against Villarreal they have lost 3 matches, conceding 10 goals and scoring just the 1.

Villarreal are undefeated in 6 European away matches (W2 D4) and have kept clean sheets in their last 3 matches. They currently share the record of getting through their EL group on 5 occasions with Anderlecht.

Astana’s recent record across all competitions reads W8 D2 L2 but their last competitive match was played on November 5. Villarreal have only lost 1 of their last 10 matches across all competitions (W5 D4) including a 1-1 draw on Sunday at Athletic Bilbao.

Villarreal coach Javi Calleja spoke about the game to the media: “For us it’s a final. If we win, we’ll finish top of our group and get through to the knockout stages with a game in hand, but it’s not as simple as that. We know it’s going to be tough and we are not going to hold back.

External factors like the long trip, the temperature and the pitch are factors that don’t favour us, but I know this team and they are not going to let anything be an excuse, they’ll just make up for those things with hard work,” Calleja added.

 

Missing players

FC Astana: L. Kleinheisler (doubtful)

Villarreal: S. Asenjo (injury), Bruno (leg injury), S. Castillejo (thigh injury), A. Fernandez (knee injury), R. Semedo (illness), L. Suarez (knee injury).