Villarreal have been in fine form across all competitions this season and will host Sparta Prague of the Czech First League. They will play the first leg at El Madrigal before switching the tie to the Generali Arena next week.
How they got here
Today's hosts were always going to make some noise in this season's edition of the Europa League. They have talent to compete with the best of them and are on the verge of moving up to the Champions League. To start the league, they were handed a fairly easy group, drawing Dinamo Minsk, Rapid Wein and Viktoria Plzeň. While Villarreal did not get six wins from six, four wins from six is still an outstanding record as they finished second behind Wein. In their last match, Villarreal took a 2-0 lead to Leverkusen where they kept Bayer off the score sheet in the second leg.
For Sparta, their route was a bit trickier. They had to go through the qualifying stages of the Europa League, having to go through Thun of Switzerland. Both legs were very tight, but the Czechs eventually prevailed, winning by an aggregate score of 6-4 as the pair tied 3-3 in the second leg. In Prague's group, they drew APOEL, Asteras Tripolis, and Schalke 04. Like their counterparts, they finished in the second spot, but faced Lazio in the last round, putting on a pounding in their match in Rome.
The Spanish outfit is loaded with talented footballer's and it is hard to pick one out of the bunch. But, Cedric Bakambu has to be the most impressive in yellow this season. In his first season in La Liga, Bakambu is turning some heads. He leads his club in goals scored and is near his career best mark in terms of goal scoring. During the 2014/15 campaign with Bursaspor, Bakambu scored 13, and is a mere two goals shy of his personal best.
34-year-old David Lafata just keeps scoring goals for Sparta Prague. He does not play as much as he used to, but in 19 matches for his club, Lafata has found the back of the net 13 times. The veteran striker is going to be absolutely vital in front of goal if he is going to help his club advance to the next round of the Europa League.
With the differing in resources, the La Liga club definitely has the better footballers in each position of the starting eleven. Playing at the Madrigal is tough for any side, whether it's Barcelona or Sparta, which means that Villarreal should come away with a two or three goal advantage.