Two of the standout teams left in the Europa League will clash in the last 32, with the ever-exciting Lyon hosting Villarreal in this first leg on February 15.
Lyon are one of those teams that punters love. They may be wildly inconsistent, but their games always seem to feature goals; just look at their record in Ligue 1 this term, where they have scored 46 and conceded 20 in just 19 starts.
Villarreal topped Group A but in truth their group was one of the easiest of the lot, featuring Astana, Slavia Prague and Maccabi Tel Aviv. And they hardly blew their opposition away either – their points tally of 11 was the second lowest of the group phase – so we can put a question mark next to their name.
Indeed, when the Spaniards appointed Javier Calleja as manager back in September they must have been hoping for an immediate improvement after a wretched start to the season. A run of form reading W5 D2 L3 in La Liga is okay, but it is clear that he is yet to have found a way to get the best from his squad’s undoubted attacking brilliance.
One team who we don’t have to worry about from an attacking perspective is Lyon, so will they simply outscore Villarreal over two legs or is there more to this tie than meets the eye? Read our Lyon vs Villarreal Predictions below and be sure to also check our Free football betting tips for tomorrow.
1. Lyon vs Villarreal Betting tips & Odds
Lyon’s home advantage is sure to give them the edge, according to the bookmakers, and so they start as favourites at a price of 2.25. Villarreal may well tempt some punters at odds of 3.30, mind you, and the draw can be backed at 2.60.
What is particularly exciting about this Europa League tie is the sheer amount of attacking talent that will be on display. Just look at the brilliance of Lyon’s front three so far this season. Nabil Fekir, Mariano Diaz and Memphis Depay have scored 34 goals between them already, and there’s even the likes of Bertrand Traore and Maxime Cornet waiting in the wings. This really is an appetising time to be an Olympic Lyonnais supporter.
Villarreal are no slouches when it comes to putting the ball in the net. They can field a front two of Carlos Bacca and Cedric Bakambu if they so wish, with the likes of Nicola Sansone, Samu Castillejo, Denis Cheryshev and Pablo Fornals offering high-quality support.
But the Spaniards are rather less prolific than their opponents here, and as yet the new manager has not found a way to work Bacca and Bakambu into his side and achieve consistent results at the same time. A run of three straight defeats in La Liga in late November and early December is a testament to that.
Our angle here is to ask whether Lyon will play their first-choice front three in this tie. Without them, the French side are rather ordinary, but when that trio is firing they take some stopping. The prevailing logic may be to stick Fekir, Depayand Mariano together here against Villarreal, build up a lead for the second leg and then rest them in Spain.
If that’s their plan, then the 2.25 available on an Lyon win here is unmissable.
Two of the most exciting teams to watch left in the Europa League, Lyon and Villarreal, have been drawn together in the Round of 32. Who will prevail in this eye-catching contest?