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Sporting Lisbon v Villarreal - Europa League
At least these two teams won't need to do too much travelling as they visit each other in the 1/16 finals of the Europa League. The first leg between Sporting and Villarreal will take place in Lisbon, where Sporting awaits the Spanish side at the Estádio José Alvalade. Sporting have had a relatively easy time in the group stage, where they got paired with Arsenal, Vorskla Poltava and Qarabag. As it was expected it was only the English team who managed to challenge Sporting and with a draw and a loss to Arsenal, The Lions managed to advance into the 1/16 finals with a 4-1-1 record and 13 points. Looking at how Sporting is doing in their domestic league, they are currently 4th with a 13-3-5 record, 9 points behind the leading Porto. As for their recent games, Sporting are 2-1-2, with 2 defeats coming from a back-to-back match against Benfica. In the first match, Sporting lost 2:4. The next match against Benfica was played at Estádio Sport Lisboa e Benfica as the 1st leg of the Taca de Portugal. The match ended with a final score of 2:1, which means Sporting will chase the result in the 2nd leg. Prior to those 2 defeats, Porto played a draw against Setubal, won against Porto (1:2) in the League Cup, where they also defeated Braga only 3 days prior (1:2). The Yellow Submarine is a suitable nickname for Villarreal, who are sinking in the LaLiga. They have not reached the bottom yet, but they are doing a "good job" in doing so. All jokes aside, Villarreal are far from good this season, at least in the LaLiga, where they are currently only 2 points clear of being the last team in the league. As of now, they hold a 3-11-9 record in 23 games played. Looking at their recent matches, Villarreal have not won a league match since 25th November, when they defeated Betis (2:1). And while this is a terrible record to hold, there is a bright point in their performances. Villarreal have not lost a match in Europa League yet. They got placed in the Group G with Rapid Vienna, Rangers and Spartak Moscow and got out of it with a 2-4-0 record. In their most recent Europa League match, Villarreal won against Spartak Moscow (2:0), prior to that they held both Rangers and Rapid Vienna at a goalless draw and won against Rapid Vienna in a 5:0 match. Earlier in the season, Villarreal also held Spartak Moscow at a 3:3 draw. "They have not lost a match in Europa League yet" sounds good right? Well yes, it does, but once we look into what it really means it's not as impressive as it might seem at first glance. I mean just look who got paired with Villarreal in their group stage. While I don't have a problem with the teams they faced, I have a problem with the results Villarreal put up against those teams. On the other side, it would be hard to argue Sporting had an easier group, which they hadn't, but Sporting at least managed to win against the weaker opponents with results like 3:0 and 1:6. Taking all into consideration, Villarreal are far from impressive in their Europa League campaign as well as their league performances. Villarreal are quite fond of draws, which was the result in 7 out of their last 10 games, so I expect them to try and hold out the match for it to end 0:0. On the other side, Sporting will try to get a lead before heading to Spain and from what we have seen from them I believe they are more than capable of defeating Villarreal. Prediction: Sporting Lisbon to win
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