Champions League: Three keys for Unai Emery’s Villarreal to complete a shock over Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich welcome Villarreal CF to the Allianz Arena on Tuesday for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final, with the Spanish team leading 1-0 from the opening game and able to push through in the event of a goalless draw ( catch all Champions League matches) action on Paramount+). The odds of Arnaut Danjuma’s early goal being the deciding goal are slim, especially given how prolific the German giants can still be, but Villarreal showed last week that chances created count for nothing unless they end up behind the net.

Unai Emery’s men have been great on home turf but they will have to replicate and perhaps even better than if they are to do the unthinkable in Bavaria and take Bayern out of the Champions League bill this season. Approaching stage two with the same mindset and knowing opportunities are scarce are both a given, so here are three key areas El Submarino Amarillo can focus on to keep this campaign’s underdog story alive.

1. Limit Lewandowski (Again)

Easier said than done and few teams manage to keep the Polish international quiet for more than one game, but by giving Robert Lewandowski as few chances as possible to hurt them, Villarreal has a better chance of avoiding defeat. Bayern are far from a one-man squad but the 33-year-old is as important as they come for Julian Nagelsmann’s men and is the most likely source of goals and damage ahead of Tuesday’s encounter so limit his involvement and that’s a important pitfall. Lewandowski made just two shots in the first leg and there have been only three combined matches between the Bundesliga and the Champions League, where he has scored less than that this season. Repeating that is the first step to slow down Bayern.

Villarreal has its own goalscoring machine, but it’s a two-headed attack at Gerard Moreno and Arnaut Danjuma that really needs to catch fire here as they search for what could be a potentially killer draw in the draw. Together they account for 36.4% of the team’s goals in La Liga and the Champions League combined. Moreno is the more complete player and as well as scoring goals, he also creates for Villarreal, averaging two chances created every 90 minutes on the pitch. It’s more than likely that if Villarreal walk away victorious, it’s because Moreno made something and Danjuma got rid of it.

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2. Wide Argument

The home side’s secondary attacking threat will come from outside where you have Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane and the up-and-coming Alphonso Davies who all have the pace and technical quality to cause trouble. Those four wingers lead Bayern in attacking third by 90. Juan Foyth and Pervis Estupinan were stellar in the opening game and they will have to put in equally impressive demonstrations to frustrate Bayern’s wing prodigies once again with Thomas Müller considering another threat as he drifts around on the edge of Villarreal’s box.

It wasn’t that they stopped those attackers from getting the ball in the first leg as all four players averaged more final thirds per 90 on the day than during the season, but it was Villarreal’s relentlessly perfect positioning which meant the wingers were consistently unable to use that possession to create big chances. The Spaniards themselves have quite extensive options with Samuel Chukwueze and Giovani Lo Celso who may be the most capable of causing trouble for their hosts if deployed there, but it will clearly be a different kind of danger. Bayern’s wingers want to tear down the defense of the set while Villarreal hits you in the break and they’ll have to do that to keep the game in balance.

Featured game Bayern Munich vs. Villarreal

3. Midfield Control

Perhaps the most important battle of the evening will be fought in midfield with Dani Parejo, Etienne Capoue and Francis Coquelin, all crucial in terms of their experience and ability to compete physically and technically with Bayern’s impressive arsenal at the center of the park. If players like Parejo and Lo Celso can see enough of the ball, Danjuma and Moreno can hope Manuel Neuer looked surprisingly shaky in Spain and was only allowed to concede more than once when he misjudged Coquelin’s looping ball.

Parejo, in particular, remains one of Spain’s most underrated midfield engines. Few people in the world can deliver the number of passes he has with the amount of chances he creates for teammates. He is ninth in La Liga with 69 tries per 90 and sixth with 2.21 chances created — the only other player in the top ten in both categories is Toni Kroos. Only a midfielder, he is first in both created chances and expected assists. Of the midfielders who touch the ball more often than he does, four play for Real Madrid and the other is Sergio Busquets of Barcelona. Parejo is a legitimate midfielder and Villarreal who can do the impossible depends on him.

On paper it is difficult to compete with Muller, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Jamal Musiala, but Parejo can. If he leads midfield in a repeat of last week’s feat, there is hope for Emery that his players can build on that foundation and complete Bayern’s demise for their own fans.

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